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Organizing shared drives for retention

Managing electronic records within shared drives is not an easy proposition. Anyone can move files around or create new folders at any time. Without a set file plan, shared drives can become quickly disorganized.

Develop a file plan

The Records Classification and Retention Schedule has a hierarchical structure. This structure can map to a shared drive file plan. The major functions are the root folders. Sub-functions and records series are higher-level folders. Records series should be further subdivided to support retention period tracking.

Within each records series folder, there should be an active folder and a series of inactive folders with past years. These folders are for the year in which the retention trigger occurs. When a retention trigger occurs for a folder of related records, that folder should be moved to the applicable retention trigger year.

This does not mean that all records in a records series should be in the same folder. You can split active records up into separate folders to make retrieval easier. Split them up in a way that makes sense for the way you do your work.

  • You can split them by date: Records by day, by month or by year.
  • You can split them by "case": A "case" might be a student, donor, a student appeal, vendor, transaction or employee.
  • Or by project: For the most part, you can keep project records as a unit. Some deliverables may actually be a part of a different records series and should be filed separately when complete.

But everything in a single folder should have the same records series and retention trigger date. That way, a complete folder can be moved from the active folder to an inactive folder when the retention trigger occurs.

Retention trigger type

There are two kinds of retention trigger. These will affect the best way to organize records.

Type 1: Annual records

Annual records have a retention trigger at the end of the year. This may be the academic, calendar or fiscal year depending on the records series.

A folder of annual records should only contain records from a single year. Each year, cut off the prior year's active file. Transfer anything that you are still working on to the new folder for the current year. Keep the prior year's folder until the end of its retention period and do not add anything else.

Organizing annual records

Create a folder at the beginning of each year within each records series. This is where you will do all current work and store the resulting records. Folders from prior years are available for reference. Files should not be added to prior year folders. Modifications should not be made to prior year files. Instead, copy anything that needs an update to the current year's folder.

Type 2: Event-based records

Event based records have a trigger that could occur at any time. This may be the end of a project, publication, student graduating, etc.

These records remain active until something specific occurs. After the event, the folder is closed and the retention period counts down. Event-based records in the same folder are all subject to the same trigger event.

Organizing Event-based records

Within each records series, there should be a folder for active records. This folder should contain sub-folders for each "case file". There should also be folders by year to house inactive records. When the trigger event occurs for a particular "case file", move the sub-folder. It should go into the year that the trigger event occurred.