Get Organized: The Most Important First Step

I typically work for large companies and on the first day at a new job I try to understand the previous artist’s organizational style, so I can try to adapt to it if possible. All of their files are saved in a specific way and other files are linked to them, so I want to maintain that system or spend a lot of time locating missing files. I’ll eventually update things later, when I have a better feel for the job.

Where are the active files located on the computer? Where are the finished files? How are they named? Is there a DVD backup of archived files? Does IT backup? How frequently?

Large companies usually have their IT department backup all of the computers every couple of days. You might think “Why should I bother backing everything up when it’s already being backed-up by IT?” The answer is that the backup IT is creating only exists in its current state for a few days or until the next backup. What if you change something inadvertently and don’t realize it for a couple of weeks, especially in the first couple of weeks, before you’ve got your bearings.

Even if you have a separate backup drive you manage yourself? Same answer. The solution is to make a DVD backup of everything at this point-in-time or as soon as possible. I start with the desktop files, because they are the ones that are currently being worked on. They may not be finished, but I need to know that I can get back here if the boss says “Let’s take a look at the original version again.”

To Get Organized:

1. Do not rename any files that currently exist, and don’t move any files to another location.

2. Backup all the files on your desktop, hard-drive, backup hard-drive and any zips, floppy disks, etc. onto DVDs. Keep the contents of folders together if possible.

3. Name your DVD as you are burning it. Start with the date first, then an appropriate name: 031510DesktopArchive or 031510ProjectsFolder. If you’re burning several DVDs in a day: 031510HardDrive1 or 2 or 3. If there is a protocol in place that works better use it instead.

4. Using a Sharpie Permanent Marker write that same name on the top of the DVD. Start with the first DVD you burn (This is the first DVD in the new archive you’ll create next), so on the right side of the DVD put a 1 with a circle around it. Each consecutive DVD will been numbered accordingly.

5. Now you need a way of locating this DVD in the future. You’ll have a hundred in no time and you don’t want to have to look through them all to find the file you’re looking for. Go to http://www.DiskTracker.com and download a shareware version of DiskTracker and install it. You’ll eventually want to give them $30 for the program, it is worth it.

6. With the first DVD you burned still in the DVD drive, open the DiskTracker program.  Go to File – New to create a new document. Save it as “CompanyName + Archive.” You’ll always look for this file when you are ready to add to the archive or search for a file.

7. Next go to “Scan This CD or Volume”  and select the DVD to be scanned. The program will scan the contents of the DVD and save them to the new file. Keep the program open and after each DVD you burn follow the same procedure.

8. Next buy a DVD portfolio to store your disks in. I pick the kind that allows four DVDs per page, per side.

9. On page one, with a bold Sharpie permanent marker, I write the number 1 on the clear sleeve. Then I  put the first DVD I burned in this sleeve. If a DVD is missing in the future I know which one, and can look for it. To save time number all of the sleeves.

10. After everything is backed-up you just have to back up the newest projects in the future.

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Comments
  1. Andrew says:

    As a professional I do believe this is the safest way to get organized because you have a hard copy of all your data. I personally use large external hard drives however there are risks with these drives. One major problem being that the external drives, if removed incorrectly, can cause severe to minor data loss.

    • I agree, you run the risk of loosing everything if there is any kind of break down in the external hard drive. The nature of electronics is that they will fail at some point. It is convenient, but if it was possible to have a crash proof drive you run the risk of loosing your only original copy if you copy over it with new information.

      Your backup is always there, frozen in time. You can open it, update it, give it a new tracking number, make a hard copy for reference if you’d like and move on. It does require that you burn DVD backups frequently, but that’s pretty quick too.

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