SOAS University of London

Managing Electronic Folders

Space is at a premium in the School and much of our work is carried out on computers. It therefore makes sense to retain as much information as possible in electronic form.

It is good practice to manage documents and records on shared network drives in a structured way so that records can be easily located and access is better controlled. It will also aid a smooth transition to an Electronic Records Management System in the future.

The following guidance is designed to encourage staff to save more documents electronically, to print less, and to share more with colleagues via shared folders.

Reliability of electronic records

Some people think that electronic records are unreliable. This is not true in most circumstances. As long as care is taken to ensure that documents are properly saved and managed, documents stored electronically will usually be as reliable as a paper document, and are easier to share and distribute.

Folder Administrators

In order to make sure that folders remain well managed, you might want to consider nominating an administrator for your network of folders. Administrators should be responsible for setting up security permissions, ensuring that the contents of folders are regularly reviewed, and approving the setting up of sub-folders within folders.

Key tips to ensure that folders are well managed
  • Folder administrators should develop and agree a simple, logical file plan for the shared network drive. Try to avoid using organisational structure to organise folders as these structures change. Seek advice from the Corporate Records Manager and Archivist (
  • If you would like only named users to have access to particular folders, please discuss your requirements with the folder administrator (who should forward the request to if they agree with it).
  • Avoid having too many levels of folders - it will save you time when retrieving documents.
  • When creating new folders or saving documents try to use clear, short document names so that files are easy to retrieve and manage.
  • Regularly delete documents that you no longer need (and that are no longer required according to the SOAS Retention Schedule), and ensure that documents (including emails) that do need to be saved are organised and can be easily retrieved.
Tidying folders

It makes sense to tidy the folders you use most frequently before adopting the new best practice. Here are some tips for tidying electronic folders and documents:

  • If you are keeping copies of documents that are available elsewhere, e.g. on the SOAS website or on other organisation’s website, or in the Library, consider deleting these. If you keep them, include COPY in the filename.
  • If you are keeping several versions of a document, delete the drafts and just retain the final document.
  • If you never access particular folders and documents it may be a sign that you don’t need them - have a look and see if you could delete any documents or folders
  • Review folders at key points in the year - the end of the financial year, for instance, as there will be documents that can be deleted after these points Check the School’s policy on records retention.

Saving emails

Some emails are crucial records of School business. It may be better to save such emails alongside other relevant documents which are very important. You can save copies of emails in GMail into DIROFF by:

  • selecting ‘Print’ or clicking on the printer icon when an email is open
  • selecting ‘PDF creator’ as the ‘Printer’ name in the dialog box that comes up and clicking OK
  • clicking on save and selecting the folder that you want the pdf document to be saved in.

Sharing documents

Try to avoid saving work documents ‘off-line’ where possible, e.g. on memory sticks, in your ‘My Documents’ folder. Reasons for this include:

  • security - it is easy to lose memory sticks or other portable media
  • recovery - despite the problems that sometimes occur with the SOAS server, it is (normally) backed up - generally speaking your work will be backed up if it is saved to an electronic folder
  • sharing - it makes it easier to collaborate with colleagues - you don’t need to send copies of documents attached to emails
  • resilience - if for any reason you can’t make it into the office, colleagues can still access documents that you are working on or have created.

Some people don’t like saving drafts to shared folders. Fair enough - you can also use Google Docs which allows easier collaboration on drafts. My Documents is fine for your own personal documents such as your annual performance review.