Because every minute counts when working on a build project in the Architecture/Engineering/Construction industry, we know it is vital that you can access the files you need quickly without much hassle. Last time, we spoke about securing your server and sharing files with team members at other companies, but that security doesn’t do you any good if it affects your productivity. Because a glitch in the project schedule can have a massive ripple effect and most projects are for a fixed fee, efficiency in A/E/C is vital.
Our 7 Tips to Easily Find Any Project File in Seconds
- Policies – First and foremost, your company needs to look at the big picture and review policies for what goes on the server and where. You can’t get stuck in the details of each file when thinking about your policies and also don’t write them so rigid that they can’t evolve as your company adds new services and project types, or new technologies create new file types.
- Naming Conventions – Part of your policies needs to be a strong naming convention methodology, especially for large and growing companies. Whether it be a three-digit code for each client and project or the format of your timestamp, allowing users to name files and folders what they want will create chaos down the road. We regularly assist our clients to strategize their file structure because it can be hard for them to wrap their hands around it on their own.
- Access Management – Besides determining where you store certain files and your naming convention, you need to determine who needs access to those files. Create appropriate user permissions in groups to make ongoing management easier and more efficient. This method makes your data more secure and ensures someone doesn’t have access to something they shouldn’t see (or be able to delete) like accounting information.
- Up-to-date Server – One thing that slows users down when accessing files is the speed of the server (and internet connection). Your server needs to be fully functioning and not at the end of its life [see Life Cycle Management] with the latest security patches and updates.
- Network Infrastructure – When you have remote employees as most A/E/C companies do, you need enough bandwidth to access the server quickly and you need redundancy. An internet connection with a guaranteed 99% uptime means it is out 3.65 days a year. If your company halts work without the internet, you need a second connection from a different vendor (and possibly a tertiary cellular connection for mission-critical data). [See Good Internet Speed for more details.] As many companies move more data to the cloud, internet redundancy becomes more crucial. Also, look for internet connections with low jitter [signal interruption] rates to ensure those large files transfer smoothing and quickly without disconnects.
- Backups – Because most construction projects are done at a fixed rate, A/E/C companies can’t afford to lose data and time. You need to increase your Recovery Point Objective (RPO), meaning you need to back up your data more than every night otherwise you can lose a day’s work if something happens to your server at 5 pm. Also, work with your IT support to decrease your Recovery Time Objective (RTO), meaning you can get access to your data quickly. Some companies can live without their data for a week, but build-industry companies cannot stop construction that long to wait for files. Keep in mind, some industries you’re working in may have regulations on how long you store your data.
- Continued Training – If you don’t have server policies as part of your onboarding, you need to add it to every employee orientation now otherwise they will break protocol without knowing it. Also over time, people forget policies and best practices, so they start doing things their own way. You need consistent, ongoing training to ensure a good file structure and fast access to your server.
In other industries, like in healthcare and automotive, we’ve seen a shift to storing all project data in a production software and the only things stored on the company server are accounting, HR, and marketing files. Because of the size of files, we do not see this as the case in the construction industry yet. As construction management software and internet bandwidths become more robust, this will change. The desire (and need) to have more real-time information is driving this evolution now.