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Managing the File Lifecycle

For many folks, file management gets left on the back burner. We all admit to having files on our computers that we aren’t using and may not have accessed in months. Yet, whether files are sitting in the downloads folder or saved on the server, they exist, taking up space while left unmanaged.

Today, as the number of files per user increases in size, file management is more important than ever. Although files can quickly become inactive, employees still need access to them. Therefore, the files will usually sit, occupying your expensive storage space. Eventually, this can place a strain on storage capacity and resources—costing your business more time and money than planned for.

Industries that must track files for compliance reasons also face storage issues. For instance, HIPAA requires that files or documents containing PHI need to be kept for six years from the date of creation or date of when it was last accessed (however, state regulations can require longer periods). This can require many manpower hours from a healthcare provider or IT department as they deal with storing massive amounts of data on patients.

If there is not a process in place for file deletion or destruction, files could be overlooked or misplaced, opening a healthcare provider up to a data breach and fines from their regulating body. To avoid and prevent these potential issues, we urge everyone to follow a file lifecycle management plan. 

File Lifecycle Management

File lifecycle management can help manage files throughout their lifespan. A related term, information lifecycle management, is described by the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) as such:

“ILM consists of the policies, processes, practices, and tools used to align the business value of information with the most appropriate and cost-effective IT infrastructure from the time information is conceived through its final disposition.”

For companies with a smaller staff, this may mean they need to create a workflow for their employees to use when managing files. However, companies with a larger staff or that are looking for a more efficient file management solution should turn to automation. Although it may be tedious to set up, automation will simplify the file management process for larger companies as a whole.

How should one action out the file lifecycle management process?

It depends on your needs—the process is typically different for every organization (big or small), but most file lifecycles will include these five basic steps:

  1. Creation: This marks the start of the cycle, where a folder is created in the system and details are logged—including date, time, content, and frequency of access.
  2. Storage: The file is placed in storage where it can be quickly accessed.
  3. Use: This step can involve the file being accessed, shared, or distributed for business. 
  4. Archive: If a file has not been accessed in a certain timespan or has reached a milestone from the date of its creation, it may be archived or moved to less expensive secure storage.
  5. Destruction: A file has reached the end of its lifecycle and will be permanently deleted. With a workflow or process in place, the file will have been tracked for its entire lifecycle, and an audit log with access details will be created.

How The File Lifecycle Management Benefits Your Company

Automating the file lifecycle is not always simple, but it can be very valuable for companies in the long run. Freeing up storage space for the most important information or documents can take the strain off of resources and save companies money. After all, why clog up the best storage with less-than-essential files?

So many companies prefer the automation process as it can help minimize human error. Automations work whenever they are triggered, so you can sit back and let them work, regardless if it’s outside of your office hours. When using automations, departments can become more efficient, requiring less intensive time set aside to sift through and manage files. Additionally, with the file lifecycle management process, file activity tracking will adhere to industry regulations and compliance and give internal users an accurate audit log of activity. Overall, identifying file management needs and creating a file lifecycle will keep your business running smoothly… and even if a file issue comes up, you’ll have a plan set to address it!

SmartFile is a business file mangement platform that gives you more control, compliance and security.