The existence of duplicate documents and files is commonplace in companies of all sizes. There is the email with a document attachment that was sent to five people, each of whom downloaded the file. There is a file on someone’s desktop that they copied from the network. There is a copy in the cloud. You get the picture and you probably live this picture daily.
What can prevent this from happening? Does it really even matter? Companies seem to be surviving just fine, so what would be the cost benefit for an actual solution? Unless your company is a company of one, you will likely not find a perfect solution, but a combination of tactics will lower the frustration. And yes, it does matter and it will be worth it.
Companies can use de-duplication tools, send out corporate dictums, use team sites and many other potential options to decrease the level of file duplication and user frustration. The issue is an actual drain on company resources as users try to determine which file is the final file – opening two, three or more copies just to make sure. A big, time waster.
De-duplication is a software process that can help determine if two or more files are the same. At a basic level, these tools will use the windows file data to make a determination; file name, file size, time stamp, file type. More sophisticated tools will actually look at the content within files to make that determination, but that is usually limited to Word, Excel and email files and not scanned documents. No matter where the files are found on the network, this process can eliminate duplicates.
Having a document management system in place and management that encourages its use, will help keep duplicates to a minimum since file additions can be intelligently controlled and versions effectively managed. One possibility is to show a list of similar or related documents to a user when the user is trying to upload a new file. For instance, uploading a file for a client and job number will highlight all of the other files already loaded with that same information.
Team sites in your document management environment will encourage users to share documents with the others via that site and not via email. That will definitely cut down on duplicates. And team sites also have the version control functions built in, so creating duplicates should be less of a problem – at least for those that don’t love to use V1, V2, V3, etc.
Cutting down on file sharing via email, using team sites with version control, having management build a culture of organizational efficiency and the occasional de-duplication effort can really help create a clean file system. Start with de-duplication and then adopt the other ideas and explore even more options and you and your users will be happy with the results.