Start Page: 5 tips to better manage your digital data

Kim Brand
June 20, 2012
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Kim BrandYou are a digital pack rat. You have no shame when you admit you have 100,000 emails in your inbox; in fact, you say it with a sense of accomplishment. You keep thousands of Word Perfect documents for clients whose names you don’t remember, even though you no longer use Word Perfect.

According to IBM, 90 percent of all the digital data existing today was created in the last two years. Good news: Hard drive capacities are expected to grow to multiple thousands of gigabytes (1000 gigabytes = 1 terabyte) in the next few years. After that, new technologies are expected to allow dozens of terabytes of storage on your laptop; enough storage for digital copies of every book, movie and song ever made.

Bad habits usually have bad consequences. But the consequences of mismanaging unfathomable amounts of data may be hard to, well, fathom. So allow me to scold you for your bloated inbox, chaotic file system and unkempt photos before you suffer the consequences of your untidy ways.

Here is five-step plan to manage lots of data:

1. Segregate active data from archive data

Many businesses employ accounting systems that accumulate data over years. Email is commonly ordered by the date it was received (and kept forever). But lots of data that is important today may become less important in a few years. Design your digital file storage system to separate information that is routinely accesbrandtip01_062212.gifsed from that which is used less frequently.

Outlook has a very useful ‘archive’ feature that can automate the movement of older email to archive folders. Allowing email to accumulate in your primary mail folder can lead to data corruption that can result in the loss of all your email. It also makes it very time consuming to find anything, back up or restore.

2. Isolate static data from dynamic data

Most hard drives are filled with a mix of data that you can’t change: the operating system, drivers, programs, etc. and the data you can change: documents, databases, etc. It is common to back up everything at the same time – but you don’t need to. Give higher priority to what changes and is irreplaceable if lost. You can always get another copy of Office from Microsoft.

If data changes often you’ll want more backups. Static data only requires one.

3. Outsource data management – use ‘hosted’ solutions

One of the best ways to manage data is to let someone else do it. Hosted email systems place the burden for backing up and managing critical email data on the provider. Microsoft now offers hosted Exchange for only $4/mailbox per month.brandtip02_062212.gif

Many online backup systems are suitable for photos and other files. You may not care to back up confidential client data in the cloud. In a well-designed system, you can specify groups of files that are important to keep, but not a killer if compromised.

4. Avoid copies of copies

One of the most useless wastes of storage space – and sources of confusion – is making copies of the same file in multiple places. This occurs when attachments are distributed to several people in the same firm. Instead: send a reference (a ‘link’ or just a description) to where the file is.

Transferring files to a server from a PC about to be replaced is another example. When the new PC gets installed, the files get transferred to it from the server, but the files remain on the server forever! Catch that mistake and you could save money by avoiding an upgrade to your backup system or lowered offsite storage charges.

5. Get good at searching

It’s no wonder that Windows 7 replaced the ‘Run’ command with the ‘Search’ tool on the start menu. Search will be more important than ever when we have millions of files at our fingertips.brandtip03_062212.gif

Remember: It is much faster and easier to find something if you put it in the right place. Mom was right.•


Kim Brand is a technology expert, author and president of Computer Experts, Inc.  In addition to the Indiana Lawyer, he writes for West Publishing, the ILTA and the IL Bar Association. Kim also contributed to the ‘On-Premises’ section of the recently released ILTSO.ORG legal technical standards, and he is the inventor of the FileSafe Server. You may reach him at The opinions expressed are those of the author.


  • manage your documents
    A good way to manage your documents is to use document management software. Such software (e.g. Globodox) lets you convert your hard copy documents into digital formats and helps you manage all digital documents in efficient ways. You can index, secure, organize, search and collaborate on documents. If you need advanced capabilities, you can use Globodox to automate document based business processes, keep an audit trail etc. It also lets you back-up your documents online.

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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues