File it!

What's your attitude towards filing? Finding a place to put things out of sight? Or a handy retrieval system for reference material? We all know it should be the latter, but either way, the latest technological developments mean that your filing needs are easily met.

By Sara Goodwins


An average filing cabinet takes up about 1½ square metres of space. A CD is wafer thin, 12cm in diameter and can hold all the information contained in a filing cabinet. CDs are easier to store and also provide a simple solution to storing archive copies off site. Filing on CD means that finding filed information is faster, while digital filing only has to be done once reducing the boredom and potential errors of re-filing.

Specialist document management software such as the Invu range enables very fast access to files. It can also be customised in various ways including the creation of an audit trail, global tracking of information, the restriction of access and/or amendment to specified users and access to the filing online when out of the office.

If you'd like to be able to access digital files from a remote site and don't have a bespoke document management system, SecureFetch enables secure file retrieval via email. Registration is free; you only pay when you retrieve something – very useful if you've left important information in the office when seeing a client.

On the scanner
Not all items for filing start life as digital documents and so need to be turned into such. Scanning documents can be slow, but Fujitsu ScanSnap has been specifically designed to help people transfer paper documents into digital files. It's fast, and once scanned you can search the full text of your files for specific keywords; the search engine provides you with a list of all files containing that word. (Want to find our more about ScanSnap? Click here to visit Fujitsu's WorkSmart page on DeskDemon)

Even with something as fast as ScanSnap, scanning huge numbers of documents easily becomes a chore. Document scanning services such as those provided by DCS Papershrink Ltd, Scan Solutions or E-file can prepare, i.e. remove staples and the like, scan and index documents, transfer them to CD and then return or shred the originals. Such services are ideal for transferring archived material to disc or can be used for outsourcing all scanning work.

On paper
Did you know that Inland Revenue and HM Customs and Excise are now happy to use electronic copies of most documents, including invoices? Very few original paper documents now need to be kept so paper filing is often much less of a problem than it used to be. Just having fewer items to file reduces the amount of time you need to spend shuffling paper, simplifies classification systems and requires less storage space. Document tracking programs such as The Paper Tiger are also available, which are designed to provide an efficient labelling and tracking system for paper files.

If originals must be retained but needn't be immediately accessible then consider off-site storage. Companies such as Atix run document stores and file retrieval systems. Clients use the customer area of the Atix website to search the inventory of what is held for their firm, place an order online and the documents are delivered or collected on the following day.

On your own
Some companies employ specialist filing clerks (poor souls!) or employ specialist organisations such as Filing Heaven to take on the task of filing. Such companies audit their client's current procedure and suggest improvements such as new equipment to save space or procedural changes to save time.

Traditionally employees worked on paper which then was filed in purpose-built cabinets for future reference. Today most of us work with digital information yet our filing is still often a case of putting pieces of paper into cupboards. If we can use technology to send information to the other side of the world in seconds, it makes sense to use it to store and find that same information quickly and without hassle.

A freelance writer for over twenty years, the last ten of them full-time, Sara Goodwins has researched and written about a multitude of different topics. She tends to specialise in business and education and her features are regularly published internationally.

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