Shared drives are a necessary evil for many businesses. They’re good for providing a spot where your employees can store files. They’re bad for pretty much everything else.
That’s because shared drives are used for purposes they weren’t exactly built for. As your business and business documents grow, shared drives struggle to scale. And it’s not all about storage space either.
Between folder hierarchies, naming conventions, and duplicate content, shared drives get messy fast. And when they spiral out of control, shared drives become impossible to navigate.
In the end, shared drives provide more frustration than usability.
Shared Drive Problems and Policies to Help Mitigate
These are the main struggles businesses face with shared drives along with shared drive policy and procedures that can help this work better. It might not solve all of your problems, but it will help you get a little bit closer to sanity.
1. No Guidelines for Using the Shared Drive
Especially if your organization is new to using a shared drive or had to adopt it in a rush because another system failed, you might be living in the wild west of document policies. This makes documents hard to find, almost impossible to actually share, and frustrating on all counts.
Solution: Create Guidelines
First, you need to create shared drive policy and procedures on how to use the shared drive for document management. Be sure to answer questions like…
- Where should documents be saved? There needs to be a rhyme and reason to how documents are saved. Outline the folder and subfolder hierarchy, so your users know where to save them. If you can, put controls in place to limit the creation of new folders.
- How should they be named? Establish naming conventions to make it easier for users to save documents the right way. Consider incorporating dates in the prescribed naming conventions. And create version control by including version number, too.
- How long should they be retained? Create a document retention schedule for your organization. Outline your company’s requirements for document retention. These will likely be specific to certain types of documents, like legal documents or accounts payable documents. And they’ll probably be related to compliance requirements.
Covering these bases with your guidelines will help users know what to do when it comes to managing documents.
2. No One Knows How It Works
Do your users know that they’re using a shared drive? Has anyone outlined where their documents live and where shared documents live? Especially in organizations where paper has ruled the day for many years, switching to a digital storage system that only loosely imitates the paper one might be confusing.
Without any training, things can easily go awry.
Say you create three folders in a shared drive. One is for human resources (HR). One is for IT. And one is for accounts payable (AP). Then you let your users loose on the shared drive.
When you come back to it the next day, there might be a wonky document floating loose called “report1_v2_2017_draft_2016_final(7).docx”. You have no idea what this document is or where it should be.
A day after that, you discover that someone created an “AP” folder in the “IT” folder. So now AP documents are being loaded into the original “AP” folder and the “AP” folder within the “IT” folder.
Fast-forward a month, and the documents have gotten out of control. No one wants to remove a document in case it’s needed. But no one has checked the document retention schedule in the guidelines. So it’s as though it doesn’t exist.
Solution: Train Employees to Use It Properly
The best way to get your users on board is to train them on how to use the shared drive properly.
Walk them through the folder hierarchy. Outline the proper naming convention. And share the document retention schedule. Let them know what files can stay in their personal drive and what documents need to be available to others.
3. No One is in Charge
When no one oversees the shared drive, not only can chaos ensure when policies aren't adhered to, but users have no point person to ask when they have questions.
Solution: Put Someone in Charge
To make sure the shared drive is a success, you should select an administrator to oversee it.
Your administrator can keep an eye on the folder hierarchies and ensure that documents are saved properly. And appoint this administrator right away. Otherwise you risk tens of thousands of documents floating around in chaos in the shared drive.
How to Get Your Documents Off the Shared Drive
Making a shared drive serve as a document management system might work. But, unless you’re willing to put in the manual upkeep, it probably won’t. And let’s face it. Who has the time to manually monitor a shared drive?
So you have to decide, where’s the next best place to store your documents? Should you invest in an electronic document management system? Is there another way?
There are options out there that provide more flexibility than a shared drive.
Some organizations have turned to Microsoft’s SharePoint. It provides the basics of document management—check-in and check-out. But SharePoint can turn into a document graveyard just as easily as your shared drive can.
That’s because SharePoint is used for too many purposes—it’s a platform for intranet, documents, collaboration, extranet, websites, and business intelligence. So SharePoint has a lot of the same issues as shared drives. Folders can get out of control. Naming conventions can break standards.
The best way to get your documents off the shared drive and get them under control is by using an enterprise document management system, like Webdocs.
See a Document Management System in Action
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