Does your business have files from eight years ago eating up your precious server space? The goal of shared servers is to facilitate collaboration amongst employees and back up critical data. Realistically, these servers end up also holding holiday party photos, forgotten email chains, and other data that no one means to leave there but that no one removes in case someone else put it there for a reason. When this happens, servers can cause cost and confusion rather than than the productivity they are meant to provide.
We’ve rarely come across a shared network drive that wasn’t at least a little bit cluttered. With this in mind, our experts weigh in on a few steps to clean up those servers:
Before you act, make sure to communicate with all upper level management/stakeholders. Consider even having them bring up the intended changes in team meetings to gather any thoughts/feedback from their employees, who are ultimately the people navigating these files day-in and day-out.
Your server should reflect your organization’s workflow. So, for example, teams that work in parallel but report to the same management team should have parallel folder structures. Depending on the state of your server, we recommend occasional overhauls as opposed to just deleting files here and there. Consider this an opportunity to start from scratch and build your desired operating environment by copying over files you want to keep and then working with your IT department or MSP to archive the rest.
Assess Existing Data
If you take the recommended overhaul path, start by gathering your managers so everyone walks through existing files in the same room. This will ensure no one overlooks a batch of files that should have been kept.
Map out your new structure
While you’re all in the same room, talk about your organization’s workflow and sketch out a folder structure that is reflective of it. Are there resources shared among all teams that should be pulled out and stored in their own folder? Do all teams function the same (in which case they should have the same structure) or differently (in which case they should have different folder organization)?
Physically write out a “map” for each folder that your people need access to, being conscious of consistency. The more consistent your structure, the easier it will be to train new hires, fill gaps if employees unexpectedly leave, and cover colleague responsibilities when they go on vacation, maternity leave, etc.
As you start fresh, create rules about what can or cannot go into each folder. This will help avoid build up of files that no one knows the owner of. Also consider if there are any files that should be locked or restricted in access. While you’re at it, consider making rules to create consistency across file-naming – this can be done with the server cleaning or later, depending on whether you think it will be information overload for your employees. It will make it much easier for everyone to find what they need to on every level.
Finalize the structure
Check back with your stakeholders one last time before implementing your changes so you’re sure that all your team leaders are on board with the plan. Set dates for when people must copy over the files they want to keep, when they should start using the new structure, when they will be cut off from the old server, etc. Communication of this timeline, as well as information about the new structure, rules, etc. is critical for a smooth transition. Last but not least, have your IT team (or MSP) perform the actual cutoff.
In our experience, organizations using this process significantly reduce the total space their files are taking up. You and your IT network administrators will be able to maintain the network better, and your team members will be able to work more seamlessly and productively.