Best solution to manage documents?
November 17, 2006 10:06 AM   Subscribe

What is the best solution for an IT department to manage documents?

I'm in an IT department with less than 10 staff and we have a terrible mess of a shared drive. We have a wide range of information we need to keep: instructions for IT staff, instructions for users, diagrams, listings of server details, serial numbers, etc. What has worked for other groups/departments to keep lots of documents organized? We tried KnowledgeTree ( but it was too much upkeep for some of our staff. I've considered just tidying up our shared drive but was interested to see what others have tried. I'm open to any and all suggestions but prefer free solutions. Thanks in advance.
posted by aceyprime to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If you're a windows shop, have you checked out SharePoint? It works very well for smaller workgroups, and supports document management (versioning, etc.) pretty well. You can access documents via browser or network drive.
posted by aberrant at 10:17 AM on November 17, 2006

We're using sharepoint here and so far it's been pretty painless and slick. Although, we just officially rolled it out, so ask me again in a few months.

Before that it was NovaManage, which was slow as could be. My last employer used a thing called Livelink, which was even worse - you could start loading a page and go get coffee while waiting for it to finish. It supported versioning, which was the main draw, but ultimately everyone hated it for its lag.
posted by routergirl at 10:20 AM on November 17, 2006

I'll second the Sharepoint, we've been using it a year. If you're a *nix shop, I think there are a few open source packages available.

Regardless of the platform, though, you need a plan, and a God or Goddess to keep order.

I appointed myself as that Goddess when we redid our shared drive and I have to be pretty ruthless when it comes to keeping files in the right folders.

There's places for drivers, places for applications, places for utilities, and most importantly, a place where everyone can go wild. Each employee has a "scratch" folder where everyone has access, but your folder is yours to structure as you will. Some are pretty neat about it others (like me) are pretty sloppy. But it's all internal and for the most part the place is kept organized.

Documents with instructions, diagrams, etc we put in Sharepoint, with an M$SQL backend so we could search.

Another important thing to do is go over the structure with the staff regularly, to make sure it's still working for everyone, and make whatever changes are needed. If it's not working for people, they won't use it, and you'll have to start all over again.

As for instructions for the non-IT staff, in Sharepoint you can name the users and what access they have to bits and pieces of your site. For us, we had an entire server that was ours, and put stuff for general staff on the other site.
posted by lysdexic at 1:40 PM on November 17, 2006

You might want to consider setting up a Wiki based solution. Previous ask MeFi.
posted by white_devil at 7:02 AM on November 18, 2006

The last couple companies I've worked for have used 1) Wikis and 2) CVS. (With the right Wiki, you can include a CVS directory right in a Wiki page, using a CVS Web interface.)
posted by kindall at 11:04 AM on November 18, 2006

Unsurprisingly, this is a problem that's plagued every IT project I've worked on.

In addition to general organisational doctrines (e.g., "discipline, discipline, and more discipline"), I would definitely second both the ideas of a wiki and a version control system (e.g., CVS or SVN).

A wiki is good when your documents are easily translated to a web/wiki form (e.g., do those Word documents /really/ need to be in Word, or are they just lightly-formatted text?) I've found that for the appropriate documents, wiki/web documents are great because they make it easy enough to edit that it reduces effort and encourages people maintaining them. (Which I think is simpler than an actual Document Management System like KT.) Not to mention the benefits of inter-linking, etc.

A VCS is good because it allows you to be bolder about making changes and organisation, because you can always roll-back in time, and not need to create your own ad-hoc historical filing system (e.g., say goodbye to folders full of "Report v2.3.doc", "Report Final.doc", "Report Actual Latest Version.doc")

For wikis (particularly documentation ones), we're using DokuWiki, which I'm pretty fond of. (Recommended in a number of other AskMeFi posts.)

For VCS, Subversion (SVN) is very popular, and easy to set up on both *nix and Windows, but it might be worth learning more about different options and seeing what bests suits your needs.
posted by insipidia at 6:24 PM on November 19, 2006

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