We all have files on our computers right now that we aren’t using and may not have accessed in months. Whether sitting in the downloads folder or saved on the server, these files exist and they aren’t being managed.
Today, as the number of files per user increase in number and in size, file management is more important than ever. Files quickly become inactive, yet employees still need access to them, so the files sit, unused, on expensive storage. Eventually, this problem can place a strain on storage capacity and resources.
Industries that must track files for compliance reasons also face an issue. For instance, HIPAA requires that files or documents containing PHI need to be kept for 6 years from date of creation or date of when it was last accessed (though state regulations can require longer periods). This can require many manpower hours from healthcare provider or IT departments as they deal with storing massive amounts of data on patients. If there is not a process in place for deletion or destruction, files could be overlooked or misplaced, opening a healthcare provider up to a data breach and fines from their regulating body.
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.”
An example of file lifecycle management from Data Capture Experts.
Companies with a smaller staff can take this definition to mean that they need to create a workflow for their employees to use when managing files. Those with a larger staff or looking for a more efficient file management solution will turn to automation.
How should a file lifecycle management process be laid out? It depends on your needs — the process is typically different for every organization, but most file lifecycles will include these basic steps:
An example of information lifecycle management from SSI
Creation: This is the start of the cycle, where a folder is created in the system and details including date/time, content and frequency of access are logged.
Storage: The file is placed on storage where it can be quickly accessed.
Use: This step can involve the file being used, or accessed, for business. It can also include sharing or distributing.
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 secure storage that’s less expensive.
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.
The Benefits of File Lifecycle Management
Automating the file lifecycle is not always the most simple process, but it can prove very valuable for companies. Freeing up storage space for the most important information or documents can take the strain off of resources and save companies money by not using the best storage for less essential files.
Departments can become more efficient, requiring less intensive time managing files in IT or by employees. The automation process can help to minimize human error. Additionally, the tracking of file activity will adhere with industry regulations and compliance and give internal users an accurate audit log of activity. Overall, identifying file management needs and creating a file lifecycle can be beneficial to most businesses.