We have our files organized in a couple of shared folders
Quite often when I talk to new friends about my job at GIS AG, they ask me what i do exactly. I usually tell them that i work together with our customers to implement and optimize archiving and document management solutions (I spare you all the details now).
Then they go on and tell me something like: “Oh yes I know that, we have a NAS for that.” Or even worse: “We have our files organized in a couple of shared folders”
I always cringe a bit when i hear things like that, because in my opinion “organized” and “shared folders” shouldn’t be mentioned together. Also my ego gets a little hurt. That someone really thinks that all i do could be replaced with a little black box that gets attached to a router.
“I think ‘shared folders’ and ‘organized’ should not even be mentioned on the same page of paper”
But to put that scratched ego aside for a while, I think “shared folders” and “organized” should not even be mentioned on the same page of paper (even though i already did in this text like three times).
Organized content and a network share with folders and files are exactly the opposite of being organized.
Don’t get me wrong, im not talking about well administered DMS or archiving systems with user rights, versions, check ins and outs and some metadata driven folder system to bring structure to your files and data. Im talking about that network drive that pops up at your explorer (or finder). It will probably be named something like “Files”, “Shared Folders” or something geeky like “Enterdrive”, “Loading…” or “insert and share virus here”.
If you love your NAS and have many valid use cases for it, please feel free do disagree in the comments.
To be honest, i don’t even like my one hard drive, even though I really try to keep it clean. In the end, I will just run a search on my disk to find a certain file. To have such a search performing well you’ll need an index. On my laptop, this is a nonevent as my operation system does this from scratch.
On a file share you’ll probably won’t have that, but you can still search for file names. Maybe even file content, but it will be slow. You could always connect those file shares to something like IBM Omnifind or a Google Search Appliance (which we just happen to have in our portfolio). And while this will immensely speed up your search results and the quality of your searches, it is still a file share behind it. I will probably have a pretty mediocre user management, and business rules or approval workflows are nearly impossible to apply or control.
Even the strictest rules of usage will probably end in chaos some day, on a shared folder.
If user rights and security are no issues, the chaos still remains. No structure means extra effort to find and might even cause knowledge loss because if no one knows what’s there, no one knows what to look for.
With a great search system like the ones I mentioned above, these problems will probably diminish a lot.
Still we are leaving potential of all our documents and files behind. Changed files get overwritten or get a little version number (Report2014DeHoV07.doc). When overwritten, the progress is lost, when copied and saved with a new name, things starting to go wrong.
Welcome to the djungle.
Sometimes, files even get copied to multiple folders. From this moment on the exact same files will live an independent life of their own.
Having an DMS or archive system like IBM Content Manager Enterprise Edition or IBM Filenet Content Manager, together with a sophisticated client like IBM Content Navigator, gives you easy out of the box features to all of the above mentioned issues. Versioning and “check in” and “check out” as well as precisely steerable user rights come only with systems like that. Also metadata can add a lot of information to a file. Going past the standard timestamps and author informations will improve search ability and will enhance file browsing experience. The exact same files can be in multi folders. Through meta data we are able to auto create folders and categorize content.
Metadata and Folders, a match made in heaven.
Meta data and folders combined, a match made in heaven, will lead to highly improved search for folders and therefore a great way to link files that belong to be stored together. IBM Connections Content Manager is adding all those benefits right into your collaboration platform. And it doesn’t stop there, just think about all the social features like tagging, sharing and so on.
The title of this blog post (The Death of the Shared Folder) already gave away my motivation behind this text. I’m not a fan of shared files in a network environment. They made sense when they came up, but today we can do so much better, yet we can still have all the benefits from these shared folders.
We can set up those new systems with strict rules or loose principles, just as the documents and processes require it.
We can effortlessly go back in time to check progress or revive content. We can support our enterprise search system with meta data, structure and clearly defined user rights. We can go mobile with great apps for iOS and Android with the same benefits on those platforms. We can do so much more.
OK, I’ll admit it: Shared folders will not die anytime soon!
There, I said it!
There might even be scenarios where shared folders are exactly the right solution. Strangely, i can’t come up with just one valid scenario. 😉 You can help me out at the comments section, if you want to.
The advantages of structured information and data, on the other side, comes to my mind easily. It will speed up processes and simplify search. It will make sure that the right kind of files, the right bit of information is found when needed, without effort. Without guessing file names. Without frustration.
A tidy house, a tidy mind.
A german proverb says “order is half of live”, maybe similar to “a tidy house, a tidy mind”. Wouldn’t it be great if all our data at work was tidy and in order, so we could use at least half of our minds to create exciting new stuff, instead of searching and cleaning up most of our time?