The Future of File Management is Coming... are you prepared?
Creative requests from companies and clients are coming in faster and more aggressively than ever before. Not only do they want more content for more platforms, but they want it yesterday. There are a lot of ways to make that happen, but one of the most helpful is to implement a solid file management system.
The next few years are going to dictate who’s evolving and who’s being left behind. In the near future, we expect to see file management systems that are more capable of handling larger amounts of data, have improved security and authentication, and better accessibility for team members on different devices and platforms. Not to mention things like automated image metadata, AI copywriters, and automatic photorendering, all done in program. We’ll dive into exactly where we see it going, but first, let’s cover the basics and talk a little bit about where we are today.
What is Digital File Management?
At its simplest definition, digital file management is the process of storing files on a disk, drive, or computer (or server), but there’s so much more to it than that. To get a clear understanding of what’s needed, most organizations can break file management down into three important areas: storage, organization, and security. For most people, these are at the top of the list of things to check off before implementing a file management system.
- At the very base of file management, this is the most important piece of the puzzle. All those files have to go somewhere and with it, a lot of questions will arise. Will you be keeping the files in-house? On a server. The cloud? Will you do it yourself or use a digital asset management (DAM) platform?
- Once your files are stored it’s important to make sure that they’re easily accessible. Which brings up more questions, like, How will the storage be accessed? Directly? Through an app? How will it be organized? By date? Name? Location?
- The more files you have the more difficult it will be to find those files. Depending on the organization of the files, and how many files there are, figuring out how to find specific files amongst thousands becomes extremely important.
- And finally, wherever they are stored, it’s important that they’re secure. If they’re stored and organized, but corrupted, lost, or stolen, all the work put into them was in vain. Make sure that there are conversations on what needs to be done to keep you and your client’s files safe.
How Was File Management Done in the Past?
We won’t spend too much time here, but in the past, the golden choice for file management was simply throwing the files in folders and saving them somewhere locally. Organization included alphabetizing and numbering, but usually not much more than that. Accessibility and search features were the thing of dreams.
Sharing those files was done with disks, email, portable hard drives, or even via FTP. These days, a lot of the ways we used to share files would be frowned upon. The security factor alone would be enough to shock some current file managers.
How is it Being Done Today?
Today, a lot of file managers are embracing the use of Digital Asset Management (DAM) software, which takes a lot of the pain points out of file management. To simplify it, DAMs offer a central hub to manage all of your files. Using a DAM gives you an easy place to manage, store, track, search out, and share your digital files. Before you choose which works best for you, do your research. There are a lot of options and they all have specific positives and negatives in relation to what you do and how you will use them.
At the end of the day, how a business manages its files is unique to that business. Some will need simple systems like in the past, with no external access, and simple folders on a desktop. Others have so many files that they could not function without a DAM system in place.
What Does the Future of File Management Look Like?
The future is looking bright. We believe that the following five areas will be where file management is headed: consistency, cloud computing, mobile access, artificial intelligence, and metadata. And while you could argue that these five areas are already being used today, the future will embrace them even more.
Organizations everywhere are increasingly standardizing their technologies, and file management is no exception. Your files will not only be accessible wherever you are, but they will also be consistent in terms of organization, access, and formatting.
For example, you might use the same file-sharing application across different departments in the same organization. But no matter how everyone accesses those files, they follow the same guidelines in naming, folder structure, and overall organization, every time. Consistency is key.
Cloud computing is one of the technologies that will become more important for file management in the future. More and more businesses are moving to the cloud, and file management systems will keep up with the trends. By moving to the cloud, businesses will be able to keep their files more secure and reliable, while also allowing them to access them from anywhere in the world, almost instantaneously.
While some smaller organizations might find this unnecessary, larger businesses almost need to make it a necessity. The days of, “I forgot my thumb drive,” are in the past — the future is accessibility with security.
Double down on accessibility, because it’s that important. People will increasingly access their files from their mobile devices, rather than just from their desktop computers. File management systems will increase the ways we access files throughout our organizations, anywhere in the world.
Forgotten hard drives, missing files, and every other excuse we’ve used in the past will be just that: a thing of the past. File management systems will provide mobile access so that users can access their files wherever they are and with whatever device they are using. And as mobile devices become more powerful, they will also be used to perform more complex tasks related to file management.
AI will revolutionize file management in the future. It can be used to automate the most mundane tasks, such as naming files, sorting through them, and recommending relevant file types for specific needs and goals. Since AI tools are trained with large language models (LLMs), they’re capable of learning anything you provide them with and generating more desirable outcomes. Thus, AI can be beneficial in many ways if trained well.
AI can also help improve collaboration, as it can monitor who is working on which files and provide recommendations on how to improve not only the way the files are managed, but it will also offer up the necessary files at the exact moment they’re needed (almost as if reading our mind).
The truth is, at this point, we don’t know where artificial intelligence will take us, or how fast it will evolve to help our file management systems organize our business. But we do know that the possibilities are limitless.
Metadata is another way that we can help in the organization of files, the searching out of files, and overall understanding of what files are. It can be used to record information about a file, such as when it was created, who created it, what it is used for, and more. This will make it easier to sort and search for files, as well as provide users with more context around the files they are working with.
Imagine working in a photo studio; you could have metadata that describes the model used, the photographer, the clothing in the photo, and any props that were used for the shoot. With a large shoot of, let’s say 1,000 photos, it could be difficult to locate the photo of James, in the gray top, and rubber ducky in the background. But with metadata, we simply search for the pertinent information located in the file itself.
The future of file management looks really promising. On the consumer side of things, companies will continue to invest in making file management simpler and easier. We have already seen a shift towards cloud-based file management and a jump in accessibility, which will only become more widespread as time goes on.
Additionally, accessing files through mobile devices is becoming much more popular, and the software needed to access and manage files from these devices will become easier and more intuitive as they evolve.
On the business side of things, companies ensuring the security of their data in addition to the accessibility of that data will be the ones trusted to control their clients and newly won client’s files.
Overall, consistency, cloud computing, mobile access, artificial intelligence, and metadata will all be used to make file management easier and more efficient for both consumers and businesses. The organizations that step up their file management system now will not only help their business overall, but they’ll be better prepared down the line when things truly evolve to the next stage, whatever that may be. We hope to see you there.
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