Records Production and Management

Shared Drive Organization

Directory Structure

  • Any 3 or more files need a system
  • Structure your directory in terms of records series
    • A series is composed of similar records arranged in a consistent pattern within which each of the records has its proper place.  The pattern may be a simple one – alphabetical, numerical, or chronological – or a complex one, as, for example, annual reports arranged first by years, then by States, and then by counties within States.
  • Create a hierarchy of folders and subsequent sub-folders for each records series

Example of Directory Structure


File Naming 

  • Be unique, specific, and consistent
  • Limit the character length -- no more than 25-35 characters
  • Use leading 0s to facilitate sorting in numerical order 
  • Use a period followed by the file extension 
  • Use lowercase letters. If a name has more than one word, start each word with an uppercase letter 
  • Use numbers and/or letters NO special characters (#$@*^&+)
  • Use underscores instead of spaces
  • Use international standard date notation
  • Avoid an overly complex or lengthy naming scheme 
  • Could a stranger look at your file names and make some sense of it? Will future you be able to do the same?
  • Proper File Naming Examples:
    • finance_FY21Budget_v03_20180701.xlsx
    • RM_AccessPolicy_v01_20181011.docx

Digital Records

To best manage digital records; keep in mind the following points:

  • Departmental file plans should serve as a basis for the classification of electronic records. Whether those records are stored on an individual workstation, a shared server, or in the RMS digital records repository, a clear and consistent organizational structure is essential to finding and using digital records.
  • All official digital records should move off of individual workstations, and onto a controlled document repository that is shared by the department.  This could be a departmental server, OurFiles, SharePoint, or (most appropriately!) Dartmouth's digital records repository (OnBase).
  • A well-managed digital record-keeping system may reduce or eliminate the need to maintain equivalent paper documents.
  • For computer records with no analogous hard copy equivalent, it is especially vital that policies be developed and documented as to their eventual disposition. A plan should also be put in place to ensure that this disposition is carried out on schedule.
  • Ensure duplicates and drafts are disposed along with their master documents.
  • If a document on paper has been disposed according to an approved retention schedule, yet the original electronic version of that document remains on computer media, the College is in violation of approved policy, and may be in a position of legal liability. Remember, computer records can and will be subpoenaed just as easily and quickly as paper documents.
  • E-mail messages may be subject to discovery in any litigation. Be judicious in the use and retention of electronic mail.  Most e-mail is very transient in nature, and should be disposed as soon as it no longer serves any clear purpose. E-mail with record value should be moved out of the e-mail repository and into a controlled repository, along with other digital documents.
  • Saving electronic documents on magnetic media such as CDs or backup tapes is not an acceptable format for long term retention. Magnetic media is notoriously unstable, and loses its signal very quickly. Records stored on these media will likely be unreadable when they are needed at a later date.
  • Records in electronic formats may quickly become unusable due to changing hardware and software standards. For instance, a document saved in an early version of a program may be unreadable when that program is upgraded to a new version. If electronic documents require retention beyond three years, a strategy must be in place to migrate that data forward.
  • The fluidity of digital records can be problematic. For instance, a document, web site or database that is updated with changes on a periodic basis can result in the loss of previous versions. Policies should be established that determine when and how a document becomes a record, and preserves version snapshots when appropriate.
  • To ensure that your electronic documents are protected, backup is not optional. It is essential!  

All of these issues can feel daunting! But the good news is that tools are emerging to help users classify, manage, retain and dispose their digital records with the same care and attention we have provided for paper files. If you need assistance or have questions on how to best manage your digital records, contact Records Management.