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How to Improve Your Filing System – Part 2

We continue our look at the components of a well-organised filing system

In, ‘How to Improve Your Filing System – Part 1’, we looked at some of the benefits of a well thought out and planned filing system. We also started to take a look at the most important components needed to improve your filing system.

In this article, we will continue with the following:

  • Place Holders and Copy Controls
  • File Tracking Software
  • Choosing a Filing System
  • Records Classification


Place Holders and Copy Controls: Creating Accountability, Usage Trails and controlling record duplication



Public libraries have been using placeholders for years to create accountability and map a usage trail of their books. A similar system should be used as part of your filing system to keep track of who is borrowing which records and where they can be found if they are not in the filing system.

A basic placeholder card should exist for each folder in your filing system. It should at the very least include the following fields, that must be filled in when a folder is removed and then returned:

  • The Folder name, title, etc.
  • A description of the folder’s contents
  • Spaces for the name of the borrower and their office location/number
  • Spaces for the date the folder was removed and the date it was returned

No folder should be removed or returned without its placeholder being updated. This simple method, when followed, will ensure folders can always be located and that someone can be held accountable for lost records.


Copy Controls

Often times, records and documents need to be copied in order to be distributed to those who need them. This process, however, can create a number of issues. These issues include:

  • Creating additional filing volume
  • Difficulty determining record location
  • Difficulties identifying the original record
  • Document archiving difficulties and destruction issues

A simple way to handle this is to use a Copy Control Stamp that identifies the original document.

First, you need to determine what details are contained in the stamp. In most cases the identity of the department or division within your organisation should be required. This indicates who the responsible record keeper will be.

Next, the stamp should include some sort of instructions. These could be:

  • Action / Destroy – meaning the recipient should carry out some sort of action and then dispose of the document copy
  • Read / Return – meaning the recipient should read the document copy and then return it to its sender.

The actions could be interchangeable, so you could also have Action / Return or Read / Destroy.

Additionally, you should be aware of the following:

  • The Copy Control Stamp should use coloured ink. You could use a different colour for each division if you like.
  • Copies should be made in black ink, thus, the original with its coloured stamp will stand out.


File Tracking Software: Taking file tracking to a new level

File Tracking Software, such as Docu-Track from Iron Mountain, is aimed at upgrading accountability and file locating. It is essentially a replacement or addition to traditional placeholder cards and it comes with many upgrades as well as additional features.

For more detailed information click here: File Tracking Software


Choosing a Filing System: Vertical Filing System or Open-Shelf Filing System

The scope of this article does not go into detail about the above filing systems. It is, however, useful to mention them.

Choosing a vertical filing system or an Open-Shelf Filing system will affect things such as:

  • Space needed for filing
  • Setup and maintenance cost
  • Filing material costs; labels, guides, folders, etc.
  • Possibly filing procedures will vary


Take the time to evaluate both options and determine the best one for your needs. Be sure to look at your needs for the short term and the long term.
Records Classification: Determining the right classification for your records

At last, we come to the final component to improve your filing system. Creating a system of records classification is essential for proper filing.

There is no standard classification for every organisation. You will need to assess the filing needs and record types for each division or department that requires its own filing system.

At the very least you should create a system that includes: numbering, codes, titles/subject and definitions that allow your records to be properly sorted.

Your classification can then be used for paper or electronic records and be translated into the various guides in your filing system.


We hope that this series of articles provides some useful tips to help you improve your filing system. For more information about Iron Mountain’s electronic filing system add-ons and solutions for document storage and secure disposal, please contact us.


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