An important skill to have when running a small business that many people don’t think much about is proper file storage and management. This is yet another part of organization and if important files aren’t properly named or easy to find, this can create unnecessary chaos and frustration. When you know how to maintain all your files efficiently, it will keep your business running smoother. Here are some important things to know about the files on your computer.

First you need to know the most appropriate and effective type of file to use to save your documents and images. Microsoft Word documents can be used for almost anything with text from letters to essays, outlines, contacts, agreements, and job descriptions. Microsoft Excel might be a better choice for contact lists, invoices, price lists, reports, and any other type of list because of its spreadsheet template and easily manipulated features. Notepad may seem like a simple Windows program, but in some cases it can come in handy. Notepad strips documents of all formatting, leaving you with the plain text, so it’s good for copying and pasting into other file types that won’t recognize other formatting. You can search and replace certain things like asterisks and bullets with Notepad. It’s also a good place to save offline copies of web comments. Sticky Notes is great for creating a digital to-do list or memo. When it comes to images, there are several options. A JPEG file is one of the most common—it is a compressed, low resolution file which works well for uploading on the web. TIFF files can be useful because they have flexible dimensions and can be large for good quality. A PSD file is a Photoshop Document which will contain all the changes and layers made in the program (keep in mind these files can be quite large and take up more memory, but are valuable in any type of design). A JNG file is similar to a JPEG in that is also compressed, but it’s more limited because fewer programs can recognize JNG files. If you are going to submit photos to a stock photography site, know that they require high resolution files, so keep that in mind. Finally a RAW file is a large, high resolution photo file that is like a digital negative. It is unaltered from the in-camera information.

When it comes specifically to photographs, there are camera settings you can use that translate into different size files. There is a small, medium, and large file setting and each have different resolutions, dots-per-inch, and take up different amounts of memory. You can also use the RAW plus small, medium or large setting—this will save two copies of the image, one as a RAW file and one as a compressed file. This setting will take up more space on your memory card, but may be worth it for the image quality and option to edit one image and keep the original.

There are also a lot of ways to organize your files. You can create an infinite number of folders and these should be organized by subject such as “User Agreements” with titles that are easy to remember. You can also rename a folder at anytime and save multiple copies in different places. Within those folders, you also want to name your documents—untitled1 is not going to help you find that contract you were looking for. The same goes for images, making the names descriptive: woman-beach-soda-ad for example. Make the name specific, relevant, and short. You could also include the date the file was created. There are different locations in which to save documents and images as in different drives. There is your desktop, good for things only you will need that you open and edit on a regular basis. There is Documents, the default place everything gets stored on a computer with Windows. There are also public drives and folders on a server that will be accessible to everyone in the company, so this is good for files that everyone will need at some point. People can also name folders after themselves and store all their personal documents there. There are temporary folders you can create for files you won’t need for a long period of time. Empty these folders when you can, and go through other folders every month or so to see if there are any files you can delete to open up some memory. Remember, when you delete files, they go to your Recycle Bin, which means you can restore files if they accidentally get deleted and files you want to permanently delete can still be found here, so also empty this out whenever possible. Finally, there is external storage. This includes flash drives, external hard drives, and CDs or DVDs. Flash drives are small and easy to transport and can hold a lot of data (usually .5 to 2 GB). For more storage space, you may want an external hard drive, which is much larger than a flash drive and is great for backup storage in case your computer crashes. CDs or DVDs are great because they are compatible with multiple platforms and can hold specific things. The general rule for saving important documents is to have three copies: one your computer, one on a portable drive, and one on a CD.

© 2012 eMarketing 4 Business LLC