7 tips for office spring cleaning

April 11, 2017 Robert Hardy

If your digital world has gotten a little messy, now is the time to tidy it up.

Cluttered desktop

Does this desktop image feel familiar? Does it give you the itch to arrange the folders and files? 

If so, it could be that time of year again. Outside, we can start looking forward to blooming flowers and green grass — but that also brings the inevitable task of spring cleaning, including your office. These days, a work clean-up also means a deep-dive into your tech and digital domains, so here are seven tips to make sure your office spring cleaning goes off without a hitch.

1. Sort out your server & set up a file hierarchy

Messy files are worse than messy closets. Are your servers filled with folders like “Rob’s Files” or “Old Accounting” that once meant something to somebody, but leave you clueless as to their contents? We’ve all been there. Luckily, solving this problem is relatively simple.

Folder hierarchy: Create a directory folder hierarchy that organizes everything efficiently. That might mean organizing materials by department, team or business function, or creating separate corporate and project files.

Folder names: Create folder names that clearly describe what’s in them. But don’t use folder names that sound too similar or people will get confused. Also, make it easy to sort folders alphabetically by avoiding the use of numbers, underscores and spaces in the first character.

Subfolders: Use subfolders to get a little more granular, but don’t go crazy. Too many subfolders can be just as bad as not having enough.

Think ahead: When creating new folders, think about what subfolders might be needed in the future and put them there, empty, so they’re ready when people need them.

2. Tidy your desktop & get archiving

We’re all guilty of saving a bunch of files on our desktop or keeping a catch-all local folder on our laptop, instead of on the server. But that can slow down your system, make things hard to find and result in critical files not getting backed up. Make sure to do the following:

Save to the server: If you use a centralized server, encourage everyone at the office to sort their files and put them on the server where they belong. Along the way, drag anything that’s not needed into the trash.

Archive folders: Files that need to be kept for legal reasons but aren’t accessed on a regular basis can be moved to an archive folder, then transferred to a hard drive or cloud storage system. Be sure to make multiple copies, kept in different locations, to avoid losing them.

Log your archives: It’s also important to make a log of your archives so that the data can be located days or years from now.

Go to the cloud: If your team works in a variety of locations and is in the habit of making copies of files to use while away from the server, think about using a cloud-based service like OneDriveGoogle Drive or Dropbox to simplify file sharing.

3. Back it up

Do you have a backup system in place that replicates your server and local files on an hourly, daily and weekly basis? Here's what to consider.

Automated backups: Whether you use Windows or Mac, setting up regular backups is easy and takes only minutes. On Windows machines, the File History system can back up files to a server or hard drive every hour. Time Machine on Macs does the same thing.

External hard drives: If you’re backing up to hard drives, make at least two copies and take one home with you every night.

Third party options: For more control over the process, like more robust encryption or other advanced options, you’ll need a third-party option, including cloud-based solutions that instantly transfer a copy of your data to an off-site location (keeping it safe from physical dangers at your office, like a fire or hard-drive failure).

Learn more about ways to protect your business data with backup and recovery options, discussed in How cloud services can recover business data in 15 minutes.

4. See how your drives stack up

digital spring cleaning

Perform a physical inventory of the hard drives you rely on for server storage, backup and transporting large files. Make sure they’re all numbered and accounted for, and run a test to check their integrity.

Over 20% of hard drives are known to give out within the first four years of their life. Fortunately, drives have a built in SMART system (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology) that helps identify when a drive is having electrical or mechanical problems.

SMART Utility is a Mac solution that can do a deep dive on your drive, and on Windows consider trying Seagate’s SeaTools. Or for ‘top line’ results, just rely on your system’s built in disk utility software.

Regardless of which software you use, it should identify if your drives have errors, help you fix them or determine if it’s time to retire them.

5. Close, cancel & purge old accounts and emails

Are you still using that old Yahoo account you set up three years ago? Is your former sales manager’s email address still active? Does your Office Suite subscription still exist under the name of a previous summer coordinator?

Make a list: Take the time to make a list of every email address, software service and otherdigital spring cleaning account associated with your business.

Then ask yourself if they should be shut down or edited to remove old contact information. A copy of your credit card statement can help you identify those annual and monthly subscriptions you forgot about.

Use active accounts: Make sure that the accounts you need are all tied to active users. Consider creating one or more ‘corporate’ accounts – not tied to an individual – that are used to activate new subscriptions and services.

6. Update your passwords

Once you’ve set your password it’s easy to forget to update it, so set a reminder once a year to pour yourself a big cup of coffee and go through every single service to update its password. Make sure to follow these tips:

Be password savvy: Make sure your passwords are robust and incorporate a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters like ampersands, dollar signs and other symbols. This should go without saying, but don’t use easy to guess words or birthdays.

Some people recommend thinking of a long sentence – like “I love to eat ice cream in the summer” – then taking the first letters from each word and combining them with special characters to create a complicated password that’s easy to remember. In this example, your password could be %IlteicitS!.

Password generators: You can also use the password generators built into your Mac or Windows software.

Store passwords safely: When you write down your new passwords, don’t put them in an unprotected Word or Notes file on your computer – that’s the easiest thing for a potential hacker to find. Instead, consider using software secure password management software like LastPass or 1Password that can generate and store passwords and autofill them on websites.

7. Recycle that old box of tech 

Everyone’s got a box or two of tangled wires, broken down old hard drives and coffee-stained keyboards sitting in a closet somewhere. But don’t throw them out.

Instead, take them to a recycling center so their trained staff can decide what can be reused and recycled. Electronics often contain valuable rare metals that can be repurposed, as well as potentially toxic elements that should be sorted out for the landfill.

Up Next: After you clean up your digital landscape, organize your social media world with 5 tools to set up an amazing social media calendar.

5 tools to set up an amazing social media calendar

Featured image via Cnews

About the Author

Robert Hardy

Robert Hardy is a Vancouver-based television producer, writer and development consultant. Through his company Perfect Day Productions, Robert works with leading producers, writers and networks to help create innovative new television series, digital media and documentaries.

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