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Why file shares cause confusion (and what to do about it)

By Gabe Scorgie

4 min read

Why file shares cause confusion (and what to do about it)
Image by Kevin Yu

File shares are notoriously messy. You search “budget” and seven results appear, three of them are labeled “budget final” and there’s never any context to tell you which one is the final final.

There’s just too many people doing too many things. The folder structure evolves (or gets misused) and information ends up in the wrong place. It ends up a wild mix of working drafts and old versions of the document you’re looking for.

File shares are not the right tool for providing clear guidance and direction. You spend far too much time trying to decode which of those ten budget files is the one you’re looking for. It’s simply not efficient and can often lead to confusion. 

Having a place to work with files is important. However, once it is finished, you need a separate location for all final copies to be stored. A place that is authoritative, organized, and easy to navigate. A place where employees can quickly find what they need and know they have the right copy.

In the following sections we’ll explore what such a place looks like.

A single place for your reference documents to live

Using file shares to collaborate on a working copy of a document is fine. But once the draft has gone through the revision stage and is ready to have ‘FINAL’ tacked on to the end of its name, it should move away from the clutter of the file share and uploaded to a library where all your other final documents live. 

File shares are far too noisy to be where your authoritative files live. Anyone can upload documents. Anyone can also create new folders or give old folders new names. That creates a lot of mess and confusion. The beauty of a library system is that the categorization can’t be changed. Only specific users can upload files and change the overall structure. 

Limiting who may upload documents to subject matter experts makes the library a much quieter environment. It means employees always know where to look for the most recent version of a document. It becomes the single place for your reference documents to live. 

An organized structure where documents live

When employees search for a specific document, context matters a lot. What category is it in? Who wrote it? When was it written? These are the clues they need to find what they’re looking for. 

Organized structures provide useful context. Especially if each section includes a clear description of its purpose. Proper organization makes it much easier to find information by browsing through a section, which may be essential if an employee isn’t sure whether something exists or what it may be called. 

One section for all policies and procedures. Another for marketing guidelines. Another for design standards. All clearly labeled and organized. It’s these systems that allow employees to quickly find what they’re looking for. 

Librarians to maintain each resource section

File shares are notorious for having documents float around without clear ownership. That’s a problem when you’re trying to create an organized place for your files.

There are two key advantages to assigning ownership. 

  1. Ownership provides important context about the file. 
  2. The file owner feels responsible for the document. They know that it’s their job to ensure the document is up-to-date and properly organized. 

Having subject matter experts in charge of maintaining sections of the library helps keep all the information relevant. It also means employees know who to contact if they have any questions. 

Only showing people what’s relevant

Employees only want to see what’s relevant to their work. Sales teams don’t need to browse through the development library. And developers don’t have use for sales collateral. 

Organized libraries, with proper permission management, means employees only see what they need. Permissions are set in a simple way, which makes it easy to maintain, rather than a more messy file-by-file management system. 

Properly set permissions means that people don’t stumble upon things they shouldn’t see and prevents them from wading through piles of irrelevant information. Managing file visibility is key to making finding information more efficient.

Stop using file shares as a place to share information

File shares have too much happening to be the go-to resource section for your organization. It’s like reading a book at a concert. There’s way too much happening to focus on the task at hand. You need a quieter environment—one that promotes the efficient finding of information and ensures that the files you find are the most recent version. 

A platform that embraces a reference library makes it easy to implement and maintain all your documents and videos. Libraries help everyone find the information they need, free of the frustrations file shares bring. They can also integrate with Microsoft OneDrive or Google Drive (and do so in a way that maintains view permissions on both sides), which makes it easy to find and collaborate on documents.

File shares can be part of your collaborative workflow, but they can’t do it all. To create a system that allows everyone to quickly find the information they need, you need to say goodbye to the clutter and noise and embrace a simple, easy to use library. 


Make finding information free of frustration.

Show me how

Gabe Scorgie

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