System Library and Metadata Structure

This section explain how to design an electronic file structure (known as the Library) that works or your organization. If your question is not answered here use our general information request form or email [email protected].

How can I put the Library structure to work?

The software is a document management system, not a folder management system. What we mean by this is that in reality you could get by with one large folder for the entire Library because the software is designed to find documents using a dynamic and robust search engine. So instead of thinking that each and every item has to have a place, the motto should be “metadata for all” with a place for appearance sake. In reality, the series of cabinet, drawers and folders is to provide the user with a visual with which they can relate and an organizational hierarchy.

What is the FileHold file structure hierarchy?

FileHold provides for six levels in the hierarchy including the Library and files themselves. This is in compliance with industry best practices. The levels of organization are:

  • Library - Holds only cabinets.

  • Cabinet - Holds drawers which is the first level of security in the structure.

  • Drawer - Holds Folder Groups and/or Folders

  • Folder Group - Holds a set of individual folders. This level is optional

  • Folder - Holds documents. This is the second level of security. Folders can be set to inherit the security setting from the Cabinet.

  • Document - Access is inherited from the Cabinet/Folder as well as controlled by the Schema membership.)

The Library may hold as many cabinets as needed. Cabinets serve two functions in the file structure; one is to contain drawers and the other is to provide the first level of security. Only those groups with membership are allowed to see the cabinet and access the drawers within.

Drawers inherit the security of their Cabinets and the job they have is to contain folder groups or folders.

Folder groups are an optional level and are meant to organize a set of related folders. Folder groups also inherit the security from the drawer they are located in. Folder groups contain single folders.

Folders are the area of the document management system where the actual files are stored. Folders provide another level of security as group access can be given, modified or denied at this level. Folders can also inherit the security of the Cabinet that it is in.

Documents within a Folder have their access permissions controlled not just by the Folder that they reside in but also by the Schema that the file is associated with. This allows multiple groups to access the same folder without ever compromising the security of files that belong to one group being seen by another. The only time this would happen is if there were users that were members of multiple groups that have access to the same document schema.

How do I best use metadata instead of subfolders?

FileHold does not have subfolders, the Cabinet/Drawer/Folder hierarchy is as far as the Library extends.  The initial question we often ask is why a subfolder is needed. Although all organizations are unique, there are typically four main reasons:

1. It's what we're used to.

This is probably the most common reason - everyone is used to Windows, where the only way to group or organize documents was with sub-folders. Because Windows was so sparse with information, everyone got used to seeing documents with the filename, date, size, and application only. Most people needed very disciplined file-naming conventions to make them appear organized onscreen, and if you wanted to show how two documents were related, it was file-name or sub-folders. A DMS offers many more options for this, and it comes down to something new - there is often inertia that needs to be overcome.

2. The subfolder is doing the work of a schema

Sometimes documents are put into their own area because they are all the same use type, like a folder full of invoices, or HR records, or whichever related documents want to organized and classified together.

FileHold offers schema to classify documents by how they are going to be used. This creates a filter that can be used when looking at Folders or Searches to locate the exact type of document needed. This means you will not need to cluster them to show their relationships - that is built in with the schema. Of course, schema do more than just classify - they also allow for control over access, setting unique retention schedules, workflows, Courier, auto-filing, etc. If you file documents by client, the schema lets you filter which users can see one document type instead of another - so sales and accounting can see the invoices, but manufacturing cannot. This allows for access control and a non-siloed information repository at the same time.

3. The subfolder is doing the work of a metadata field.

This is even more common - in FileHold, you can group and organize documents by a metadata field to show related documents. This is not an option with Windows, where the only place you can gather and sort is with subfolders. Not so with metadata - tagging documents makes sure you can search or browse documents with that information instantly. 

4. The subfolder is the result of too many upper layers.

Consider an Accounting department. They likely have their own office with a filing cabinet. They would not label this "Accounting", they know it's accounting - so they would likely start with a cabinet with chronological order, or by customer name, etc. In your case, if you remove ‘Finance’ and make it ‘Accounting 2021’, you keep all the structure as indicated with no subfolders.

How do I plan the document hierarchy?

Taking the time to design the document management system to suit your organizational needs is something that should be embraced if the project is to truly succeed. Designing the perfect solution never happens the first time but there are tips that can make it a whole lot closer.

Talk to the people that currently use and manage the documents. How do they organize the files that they use? When they need to find a file how do they go about it? Are there things that they love about the current way it is organized? Things that they would change? Remember that these are the people that will ultimately use (or not) the document management system that you chose. Definitely get their input and use it! However, be ready to do some work of your own. One of the main benefits of using an organizational document management system is being able to easily access and share information with those that have a legitimate need to access it at the security level that ensures the integrity of the information. This is something that takes consideration.

For example, how can Finance and HR both access and share the files that they both need without having to wait for someone else to retrieve it? Can a group of Finance users be made into a group that has access to the payroll area of HR at a level that allows them to read certain files and edit others? With FileHold the answer is absolutely! – as long as the Library Administrator(s) take the time to design the system in a thoughtful and organizationally sensitive way.

Create multiple solutions to your organizational needs (spreadsheets work well for this). In essence how the system works to manage documents securely is through creating a formal file structure, forming FileHold user groups with correct permissions and associating the proper groups with Document Schemas that have the appropriate metadata fields attached. One of the easiest ways to go about this task is by utilizing the good old spreadsheet.

How should I create the document hierarchy?

The arrangement of the hierarchy (how the cabinets, drawers and folders are arranged inside the Library) is totally up to you. It is recommended that the Library Administrator take into account how users’ files are currently arranged at the highest levels. Unfortunately, many users have created file structures on their personal machines that are more than the levels of organization provided by the document management system. The Library Administrator is encouraged to work with the end-user (if possible) to make adjustments. Remember that metadata and searching take the place of a deep hierarchy. Things can be more generally grouped when they can be keyword searched and also when security is implemented in a carefully planned manner.

How does group membership and document security work?

Security is controlled by group membership. Users are placed into groups and then groups are assigned access to the content of the document management system. Access to the document management system simply means what a user can access – what the user can do is determined by the permissions the group has been granted in the system.

Access to the Library is given to all individual users of the system. Access to Cabinets, Drawers and Folders is controlled by group membership. Access to files is controlled by membership to the document schema with which the file is associated.

Permissions are assigned to each group as they are created and can be modified at the folder level. For example, a group may be a Publisher+Delete member in a Cabinet but for certain Folders in that Cabinet, the group can be made to have lesser (or greater) permissions resulting in the same group having their full rights in one folder but perhaps only Read Only permissions in another.

How does Document Schemas control access and collect metadata?

All files that are placed into the document management system must be associated with a document schema. Cabinets are also associated with a default document schema. However, a document can be associated with any schema except in the case of auto-tagged folders. The document schema simply states what type of document the file is and asks the contributor to supply certain pieces of metadata for the file. It is those added pieces of metadata that become the method for searching for the files after they have been stored in the system. Document schemas are built by the Library Administrator using a template.

Less is more with document schemas. The advice is to simplify! The fewer document schemas that can be used to organize the files that your company creates, acquires, and uses, the better. Group documents into broader categories and create a document schema for each of the categories. Remember the real strength of the storage and retrieval of documents in the software is in the use of the metadata fields.

How does Metadata help with searching?

Metadata fields are associated with document schemas in order to capture specific data about the files that are put into the document management system. These “tags” are the pieces of information that you typically use when locating or describing the files to others. For example, when storing an Invoice the user may want to capture the ‘Invoice Number’, ‘Customer Name’, ‘Invoice Amount’, ‘Invoice Date’ or other relevant information that can be used to locate and identify a unique Invoice file from all other documents filed. With these key pieces of data users can search for and locate the information they need quickly and efficiently.

Can Metadata fields be imbedded into the documents.  For example: could a document be configured so that when a Filehold user prints it, the document footer displays certain meta data fields?

Not in the way you have asked.  Metadata cannot be imbedded into documents. However, this is a feature we are interested in for an upcoming release. You can get a bit of a preview of the planned functionality by looking at our convert to PDF feature in workflow. In that case a Word template document is added to the end of the document. The upcoming release will be more powerful as it will also be able to add pages to the beginning and or insert metadata directly into the main document. The technique of using tags will be the same. https://www.filehold.com/help/workflow/pdf-converter-templates

How can you “replace” a file in FileHold?  Example: Some documents we maintain are Customer documents.  When we receive an updated version from the customer, we just want to replace the old version with the new one in FileHold.  We would like to maintain any existing metadata, links to other files, Security settings, etc.  How would we accomplish this in FileHold?

For compliance and audit reasons you cannot "replace" a file in FileHold without doing some work behind the scenes as that is something that FileHold attempts to prevent. However, the use case you describe is very common. The method is to create a new version of the document from the new file provided by the customer. If you like you can delete the old version or retain it for future reference. First you check out the existing document then you check in the new document. When you are checking in the new document, you override the checkout location and select the new file.