March 29, 2017

Take Control of Your File Shares

7 minute read

When it comes to an organization's file shares, there is often chaos. Piles of unorganized data, most of it ROT, clog up efficiency and present a compliance risk.

File Share Challenges

Chaotic, over-retained, and unorganized file shares cause problems for every company. Below are some common challenges organizations face.

  • Privacy risks
    • 7.5% of files are lost
    • 3% are misfiled
    • Risk increases over time
  • Litigation risks
    • 75-80% of information considered ROT (Redundant, Obsolete or Trivial)
    • eDiscovery is extremely expensive - $3 million per case on average
  • Increased Costs
    • Cost of time to find files - $120 per misfiled document
    • Cost to reproduce lost files - $220 per document
  • Lower productivity
    • Professionals spend 50% of their time looking for the right information

While the value of information declines over time, the cost to manage it remains basically constant, so there is a widening gap as costs exceed value over time. Also, eDiscovery risk increases as information ages and context is lost, so there is an even larger gap as value declines and risk increases.

Equally important, if business people are drowning in their own data, they have a very difficult time actually getting value from information older than six months to a year! 

Resolving the Chaos


The first step is to analyze your current structure (or structures if you have multiple file shares). 

  1. Make a list of your file shares
  2. Talk to all departments
  3. Include user shares
  4. Ensure corporate is involved

For each file share discovered:

  1. Include the current security policy
  2. Figure out what the taxonomy looks like (or how it is supposed to look) 
2017-03-23 14_53_41-File Shares - From Chaos To Calm.pptx - PowerPoint.png

Things to start considering:

  • Are current policies being followed?
  • Are the structures possible for privacy/security considerations?
  • Are structures possible for classification, search, and retention?
  • What content should be migrated to a EDMS?
  • Is there already an EDMS or other location these files should be?


The next step is organization which has several sub-stages within it.

Build the Taxonomy

Folders need to be capable of search/retention/security

  • Existing Example: \[server]HREmployee[Employee Name]
    • This is okay for search, but not optimal for either retention, security or privacy.
  • New Example: \[server]HR[Department]Employee[Employee ID + Employee Name]
    • In the improved example, the Employee ID allows retention and better search, while the Department folder allows better security
File Migration

When to consider migrating:

  • Need to enforce a taxonomy
  • Meta Data or advanced search is required
  • Created/Modified Date not acceptable retention triggers
  • Files are transactional documents (follow business process)
  • Auditing is important
  • Version is needed
  • Creation/Authoring is shared process

When to consider staying with File Shares:

  • Users will likely follow policies OR applications in place to enforce
  • Shared Files are not accessed often
  • Files belong to one person
  • Backup technologies are in place
Create a File Plan

A file plan lists the records in your office, and describes how they are organized and maintained.

A good file plan will help you:

  • Document your activities effectively
  • Identify records consistently
  • Retrieve records quickly
  • Disposition of records no longer needed
  • Meet legal, corporate and regulatory requirements
Plan for Incoming Files 

When it comes to the plan for incoming files, one question that needs to be asked is where will the templates be stored? 

There also needs to be a plan regarding how your users will work with the file share. Will they be working from a desktop? If so, the chances of lost files in case of hardware failure increase dramatically. This can also discourage the use of network for final versions, leading to more confusion. 

As part of this plan, we also need to train users on correct folder creation. This helps to enforce security and allows for simple classification. Additionally, proper folder security helps enforce correct locations. Once all of this is in place, it is crucial to report on and monitor consistently.

Organize Existing Files

There are a few options when it comes to organizing existing files: drag and drop (manual) or automated.

The drag and drop approach works well if the files are reasonably organized. To ensure accuracy, don't depend on end users to do this for you. This is a good time to consider disposing of ROT. If you can afford it,  hiring temporary help will keep the project on a steady timeline.

The automated approach may work better if the files are not organized. In fact, this may be the only way to handle very disorganized file shares. There are several options including a mapping application or automated classification.


Similar to the previous step, there are several stages of the management phase of controlling your file shares.


There are four crucial tenants of an effective lifecycle:

  • Correct policies at the correct time
  • Events are being used to drive retention
  • Review processes are in place
  • Ability to transfer to locations with different security levels 
  • Indexing can be an issue
  • Browsing by users is likely 
  • Tools to use:
    • SharePoint
    • RecordLion
    • Others
  • Folders creation
  • Correct location must be maintained
  • Must ensure classification is correct

  • Two areas to report on:
    • Volume
    • Unclassified data





When it comes to disposition, there are a few key considerations:

  • Do files need approval before being destroyed?
  • You need to audit the deletion process. Who is allowed to dispose of items? What is the chain-of-command?
  • Files are “Records”. Accordingly, disposition is a critical process that should not be taken lightly.
  • What about the destruction?
    • Forensic destruction?
    • Do we need proof of destruction?
    • Should the record be transferred or permanently retained instead?


File shares can be a massive compliance headache if they are not properly managed. However, following the steps laid out above alongside an automated records management solution will allow your organization to take your files shares from chaos to calm.

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