Dive into digital housekeeping (we guarantee you need it)

08/01/20185 Minute Read

With the arrival of a new year, digital housekeeping just feels right. The clutter technology accumulates can seem unreal, and it causes havoc on everything from efficiency and performance to even security compliance. Let’s face it: Getting users to adhere to security policies and processes is next to impossible when machines are unorganised and running poorly.

The annual, global cleaning phenomenon among office workers is happening right now, as employers encourage them to ditch, shred, and remove tons of unneeded stuff (commonly know as junk to the developed world). For us techies, we’ve had several other priorities that probably held us back from maximum data organisation. Now’s as good a time as any to address clutter issues too—both physically and digitally.

Defrag, de-clutter, and ditch those unwanted files

Sometimes satisfying and always cathartic, de-cluttering is now en vogue. Marie Kondo takes clutter to another level and has even made it her profession, through developing the #KonMari method. Her unique method sends clutter chaos packing and restores harmony in homes (and lives) around the world.

Digital housekeeping often goes completely by the wayside despite being a real drag on your network. File clutter can only be seen if you look for it (unlike your dusty desktop). No doubt you’re familiar with Inbox Zero, and you’ve probably seen those social media posts of people announcing (to people that care) that they’ve achieved this elusive goal. That all helps, but there is far more to digital housekeeping than a tidy inbox.

Typically, IT stores massive quantities of data and files, so when it comes to employee laptops, devices, and shared folders, “out of sight is out of mind” is bad approach. It’s almost a sure thing your network isn’t working as good as it could be.

We’re only at step one, so do the obvious first: tackle the downloads folder, trash, and desktop. Often, these areas have a lot of redundant files, so you can remove them without too much drama. If you open an unusually massive folder, sort them by date and deal with it in batches. Better yet, teach the user to do it periodically, too. If they need some persuading, tell them how much faster their Spotify app could be.

Do you back up user desktop data? If not, they probably assume you do, which can lead to a little tension in the event of a hardware failure or data loss. So, capitalise on this digital housekeeping opportunity to create better processes and policy for backing up laptops and workstations. You’ll be glad you did.

Bad memories of maxed-out mobiles

Employee smartphones and tablets may be brimming with bucket loads of network-draining photos, videos, duplicates, and screenshots. As Lifehacker points out, mobile devices may also be clogged with obsolete or unused apps that are worth cleaning out.

If you run a BYOD program, there may be a limit to the kinds of data and apps you can remove from employee devices. Although these limitations do depend on the type of BYOD policy you have in place as well. At the very least, you can help staff identify clutter, which they can remove themselves. And if you spot an opportunity to create or update a BYOD policy, consider your network requirements because it may be worth pursuing.

Check the checkout equipment

When your employees travel, do they check out any special equipment, like cameras, camcorders, or voice recorders? If your answer’s a “yes,” you’ll want to do some digital housekeeping on all those devices too. Not everyone bothers to clean out the data they’ve stored on checkout equipment, which potentially creates privacy issues—especially when equipment has multiple users.

Chances are you’ll find a bunch of files sitting on memory cards or flash drives that either need to be archived or deleted altogether. If you don’t already have a process for archiving or wiping data on checkout equipment, add it to your to-do list—but don’t let it sit too long.

Tackle all (over) shared (under-loved) workstations

If your organisation features shared workstations for unique projects that require digital editing software, make sure not to overlook this. Why? Because when there are multiple hands, there’s probably multiple disparate systems operating. I think you get my drift—or tension headache—or both.

Shared folders are the locus for masses of digital clutter. If you offer work group folders to departments or teams, it’s a good idea to have colleagues go through them periodically, to determine whether any data in those folders needs to stay. If you’re running special software that stores data in particular folders, check those locations for anything that can be archived or organised. It may be time to rid them of dusty, dated data no one’s using.

Your (hopefully secured) endpoints are also probably a little desperate for your attention. Copy machines and office printers may have their own shared folders where files get orphaned, too. If you have separate, remote-office file systems and other devices that may store data locally, add them to your checklist as well.

By clearing out old data on workstations, mobile devices, checkout equipment, and shared folders, you’ll help make your office more efficient and user-friendly for employees. If you want to take your digital de-cluttering further, consider training staff to be competent with operating devices autonomously, and update any relevant processes and policies to accommodate changes.

To our new year of no clutter … Well, a lot less anyway!

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