Setting Up a Filing System Part 2: Active vs. Historical Files

By | Feb 9, 2010

One thing to consider when setting up your filing system is how you are going to treat active versus historical files.

Essentially, active files are ones you still need to have regular access to while historical files are those which you are unlikely need to access to, but which need to be kept for legal purposes.

Types of Active Files

When you start thinking about active files, your main consideration is how often you need to access those files.

  • Working Files – generally, I keep files I’m currently working with in my desk drawer or on a file holder on my desk.  In other words, I keep them in a place where I don’t have to get up from my desk to retrieve them.
  • Reference Files – files that I access less than once a week or so are filed in a file cabinet further away from my desk.  If I need to refer to them less than daily but more than once a week, they often go in a rolling file cabinet that I keep handy. It’s easy to roll over to my desk as I need it, but can be rolled out of the way if I don’t.

There are no clear cut guidelines as to which files to keep close to you and which ones can be filed further away.  What you need to keep handy will depend on the job you do and the files you need to access frequently.

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Purging Historical Files

Once files pass the time when they are used for reference, you have to decide if those files will be purged or archived.  Certain files, like financial and legal files, need to be retained for a minimum amount of time before they are purged.  Other files can be purged at any time.  I found a pretty good retention schedule for the files you need to keep and how long you should keep them. Your company may have a retention schedule that they use.  Always be sure and check, because you should always keep files at a minimum of what is called for by your corporate retention policy.  If your company doesn’t have a file retention policy, you should look into suggesting one for adoption.

Once files pass the point of being active, you should either purge them or archive them, depending on your needs and company policy.  Any records that are confidential or contain confidential information (such as payroll files and any information such as social security numbers or credit card information) should be securely shredded.  Many companies are available who are bonded and can provide a certificate of destruction of this information.

Files that should be archived should be boxed and sent to wherever you archive your files.  Be sure to mark the contents clearly on all sides of the box, and include a list of all files in the box for easy reference.  You’ll want to keep that list for yourself, as well, so you can easily find an archived file if you need it.

Next Post: Setting Up Your Files.

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4 Comments so far
  1. Brian Insanity (1 comments) February 13, 2010 1:04 pm

    7 years you will need to be able to locate and find these files typically, so plan accordingly, organization is key to locating these if you have a pile of files. Archiving to a server is a good idea.

  2. Folienfaq (1 comments) February 19, 2010 9:02 am

    Yes, in fact you must have a very good organization and worke carefully. I also archive all files to a seperate server.
    .-= Folienfaq´s last blog ..Schutzfolien – eine Hilfe bei heißen und sonnigen Tagen =-.

  3. Jodith (189 comments) February 20, 2010 8:43 am

    Archiving to a server is good, as long as you have a good backup plan for the server! Remember, computers fail all the time so be sure you always have your backups set.

  4. barney@Texas Data Vault (1 comments) June 20, 2010 11:59 am

    @Brian, you are exactly right. I am amazed at the amount of companies we come across who don’t have an adequate backup plan little alone a plan to keep their data long enough to meet government regulations. Even more scarry is the amount of companies that do not have an offsite backup. We hate to think the worse but a fire would destroy these companies.

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