Between handling your workload, office upkeep, and attracting new business, the need to remain in compliance with both legal and ethical standards can be a true headache.
Common sense dictates that, at any time, you may need to reference a completed project. It does not matter if the client has a question, or you need to prove a deduction. If you do not have access to the file, then you are in for a less than fun day.
Thankfully, there are ways to handle this issue without causing undue stress and burden for you or your company. Each suggestion discussed below can be done independently, though they are most effective when taken as a whole.
1 – Take Advantage of the Cloud
The ‘Cloud’ has become a hot topic in business over the last several years. Several web services has come on the scene, promising secure and cheap access to tools that normally would require thousands of dollars. There are three pieces of technology in particular you should be aware of.
Trello is one of the most well-known digital bulletin board systems on the Internet. It is a mixture of a project management suite and an instant messaging system. From personal experience, I can tell you that a project card on Trello can replace a thousand emails between a dozen people. Working on a complex project is stressful enough, without the added worry about missing a message.
Instead of searching through your inbox, all the information is segregated on a per-project basis automatically.
Sooner or later, an employee will leave your company on less than stellar terms. In these instances, it becomes vital for you to protect your firm from the ravages of an ex-employee with a password.
Google Vault is a relatively new service, dedicated to providing business owners the ability to halt all activity on an account and secure the data for forensic analysis. This capability can be invaluable, if you need to prove that you did your job properly to another client or legal officials. In addition, since this is off-site, the technology is guaranteed to remain current. You will not need to shell out thousands of dollars every year in replacing obsolete equipment just to store a bunch of documents from the last millennium!
Microsoft Office Online
We are all familiar with online word processors by now. There is a major feature to this suite that is not frequently discussed. In the settings, you can control the file format so that all documents are automatically saved in the “Open Document Format” (ODF.)
This file format is completely open source, and can be read by dozens of office suites across nearly platform. In addition, numerous states have made it a policy to switch to open-source technology. The ability to seamlessly interact with documents created in this format will put your company in a better position to obtain contracts with these governments.
If you already use Office365 for Business, then you have this in your subscription. If you do not, you can try it out with a personal account for free. It is definitely a must-try.
2 – Utilize File Formats Designed To Be Future Proof
In the course of my time as the go-to guy in my small town, I have had to help business owners upgrade their computer systems. One of the most frequent issues I encountered revolved around incompatible file formats.
Back in 2010, I helped a client upgrade a business computer that ran Windows 95, and used Microsoft Works. After convincing the client that it was impossible to simple put in some new ram, we purchased a new computer and set it up. It was a miracle that I was able to pull off the old data, considering the age of the machine.
I tried to open the saved workbooks in Office, and they refused to budge. The files were incompatible and nothing seemed to work. I wound up having to recreate the whole billing system, and then used paper backups to recreate the whole database.
What I had initially estimated at taking an hour wound up taking a week, all on account of the client using an obsolete file format.
I strongly recommend that you use Open Document Format (ODF) as a way to prevent this problem from happening to you.
Utilise online tools and keep your documents in readable formats. Both of these statements are easier uttered than put into practice. Only through a dedicated, progressive, policy will you keep your business directed to the future.
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