Tag: document management

It’s Halloween, so we seek out spooky stories, scary movies, and a frightful amount of candy. But truly frightening things may already be inside… the… house! Like Vincent Price, let me take you on a journey… across my computer desktop.

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I’m a nerd, and I work for a tech organization, so I like to think of myself as being pretty organized. But the ghosts of my bad habit for convenience have gathered, right behind the window in which I type this. When in a hurry, it’s awfully convenient to save files right to my desktop. The trouble is: The more you do it, the less convenient it gets. And the next thing you know, your dual monitors are covered with icons, many of which are totally incomprehensible, even to you.

Exhibit A: There’s a folder called 17NTC, inside a folder marked temp.

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Exhibit B: Eight images of the same thing, all slightly different, none with version numbers. What if we need to use one of them? Which one is the right one? Well, we’ll have to open them all and compare.

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Exhibit C: Nestled in the corner, is a vital design template – its filename Template1 – that none of my colleagues would know how or where to find, should I disappear.

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Horrifying, right? But at least I know how to fix it. Good file architecture, shared drives and the desire to help my team means I’m committed to exorcising these digital ghosts, and developing better practices. Which I’ll start, right after I clean up this mess…

Vincent Price Horror GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

At least I’m not alone!

This organization’s server narrowly escaped a frightful flood.

NTEN staffers Erin and Pattie have a mortifying mess between their desks:

While Andrea contemplates an awful overload of open tabs:


Oh, the alarming antici…………………pation!

I have this really bad habit when I sit at my desk…

Posted by Jennifer Barrett on Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Who knows what horrors await behind Tara Collins’ cage/office door?!

Head over to our community forums for more, and share your own skeletons in your tech closet!

This article was originally published on Witness.org in August 2016 and is republished here with permission.

Human rights organizations and individual activists increasingly rely on live video streaming to raise awareness about injustice. But the downside to live streaming is that there may be no permanent record, which complicates your ability to use the video later in legal proceedings, for awareness campaigns, or calls to action. Yvonne Ng, Senior Archivist for WITNESS, shares some tips for saving your live stream video so you don’t lose valuable resources.

1. If you’re the broadcaster, save on your broadcasting device.

Facebook and Periscope enable broadcasters to save their broadcasts locally on the recording device. Periscope, for example, has a setting to “Auto Save to Camera Roll,” and an option to “Save to Camera Roll” after each broadcast ends. Facebook also allows users to save their live videos to the phone’s camera roll after a broadcast.

If you have the space on your device, it’s a good idea to save your original videos to your camera roll or gallery. The sizes of your files will vary, but they will likely be higher quality than the videos you’ve broadcasted and uploaded. Just be aware that with this method you are only saving the video, and not any of the descriptions or comments that are posted with it (try option #4 below for that).

Periscope and Facebook Live allow you to save your video to your device.
Periscope and Facebook Live allow you to save your video to your device.

But what if you don’t want to save to your device for safety reasons, or if you are not the broadcaster? The next three options are relevant to both broadcasters and viewers.

2. Rely on Facebook or Periscope to save the video on their platform.

This method requires the least amount of effort — you simply rely on Facebook or Periscope to save the video. When a Facebook Live broadcast ends, the video is automatically published to the broadcaster’s Page or profile. Similarly, as of May 2016, Periscope also saves broadcasts by default to the broadcaster’s account.

The advantage of this method is that it is automatic and does not require anyone to do anything. Having the recording available after the broadcast is over also gives you (or your allies) more time to capture/ download the video (see the next two methods below).

The downsides are that the published video is usually lower quality than the original, and the broadcaster and/or the service provider can remove the video at any time, without notice, so you never know when the video will disappear indeterminately or forever. If you want to ensure you have the video, it is best to download your own copy for safe keeping.

3. Use Video Vault or Youtube-dl to download the video.

You can use services and tools to download Facebook and Periscope videos after they have been broadcast so that you have a copy in case the broadcaster or service provider removes the video later on.

Video Vault is a free service created by Enrique Piraces and RightsLab to make it easier for human rights advocates to download online video, including Facebook and Periscope videos. Simply enter your email address, the URL for the video you want to download, and Video Vault sends you a link to a downloadable package. The interface also gives you easy ways to preview the video and grab thumbnails.

Provide an email and a URL to Video Vault, and it will send a link to a downloadable package.
Provide an email and a URL to Video Vault, and it will send a link to a downloadable package.

For those who need more flexibility or do not want to use a service,Youtube-dl is powerful free and open-source tool for downloading online video. It provides the user with a lot of options, but requires the user to use a command-line interface, which not everyone may be comfortable with.

Get the video’s URL in the browser bar or by right-clicking on the video, then plug into youtube-dl to download.
Get the video’s URL in the browser bar or by right-clicking on the video, then plug into youtube-dl to download.
One downside of both these download methods is that you have to wait until the video is published, and hope that the broadcaster or service provider doesn’t delete the video before you’ve downloaded it. The downloadable videos are also fairly low quality, and there does not appear to be a way to download the descriptions and comments from Facebook and Periscope using Video Vault or youtube-dl.

4. Use WebRecorder.io to create a web archive (WARC) file.

Webrecorder (still in beta) is an open-source web archiving platform and service developed by the non-profit organization Rhizome, designed to capture dynamically generated content on the web. Webrecorder captures the content of a site while a user is interacting with it, and saves the content to a downloadable WARC file (WARC is the international standard format for web archives).

Webrecorder can be used to capture live or saved broadcasts, and like Video Vault, the interface for the service is easy for anyone to use. By capturing the URL dynamically, the user can capture the look and interactivity of the broadcast, including the social media context that unfolded around it. Again, however, the quality of the video captured is fairly low.

Interactive Facebook wall, including published live video, as captured by webrecorder and browsed using their desktop webarchiveplayer.
Interactive Facebook wall, including published live video, as captured by webrecorder and browsed using their desktop webarchiveplayer.
Periscope broadcast captured with webrecorder.io. Notice the tweets and hearts captured along with the video (although currently only viewable in hosted version, not desktop player)
Periscope broadcast captured with webrecorder.io. Notice the tweets and hearts captured along with the video (although currently only viewable in hosted version, not desktop player)

Our friend Ed Summers from Documenting the Now wrote a great post on assembling Periscope tweets and created this handy video on how to capture a Periscope site using Webrecorder:


No matter what method you use, remember that saving and downloading your live video is just the first step to preserving it! For more on what to do next, check out our Activists’ Guide to Archiving Video.

Feature photo source.

A few years ago, I wrote a case study on NTEN’s Organizational Document Management System. While some of that information is still valid, much of it has changed and evolved. I’d always meant to write a follow-up article to address how our system and practices have changed over the years, but somehow that task kept sliding down my priority list in favor of website overhauls, database upgrades, or learning how to still get enough sleep while being a dad.

Joshua Peskay from RoundTable Technology approached me in June to see if I’d consider co-authoring an update to this article with him. That was all the encouragement I needed, as it would give me a chance to review NTEN’s own system as well as to learn a thing or two from Joshua on what he’s seen work well.

Further, we decided to expand the focus this time beyond Google Drive and make a list of best practices applicable to any cloud-based document management system. While all the tools are different and have their own strengths and weaknesses, a lot of the overarching document management best practices are tool-agnostic and will apply across the board.

So, without further ado, here’s our updated list of best practices for document management in the cloud!

Folder Organization and Sharing

Create a set of top level folders where the majority of sharing settings can be managed. At NTEN, we organize these around department, but they could also be organized around project, fiscal year, or some other system that makes sense for your organization. Sharing settings should be clearly defined and communicated so all staff understand who will have access to each folder.

As a small organization, we at NTEN find it easiest to have all our top level folders shared with everyone. Then staff can also have their own individual “my stuff” type folder to keep files that don’t need to be shared or that need tighter or more specific sharing controls. For larger organizations, it may be better to primarily share across departments or project teams in order to avoid overwhelming staff with a ton of documents they don’t have any need for.

The goal is to find the right balance between ease of sharing and ease of access. Here are a few thoughts to consider:

  • If sharing settings are too limited, it can become tedious to make sure the right people have access to the right documents. And in cases when they don’t have proper access, you risk confusion, lost productivity, or the creation of duplicate files.
  • If sharing settings aren’t limited enough, you risk people not being able to find the relevant documents they need among an overwhelming mass of documents they have no use for.
  • A good archiving system is also essential to help manage this balance.

Archive System

It’s crucial to have a good archiving system in place to make sure your document management system stays healthy for years to come.

The majority of organizational files are probably used for a matter of days, weeks, or months, and then never looked at again. After a couple years of using your system and allowing older files to pile up, it will become overwhelmed with old and outdated files, making it difficult to track down the more recent and relevant ones you need. NTEN ran into this exact issue a couple years after launch, where our once beautiful document management system had turned into a churning mess of outdated files.

As part of NTEN’s (New) Archive System, we have an archive folder for each year and then created a separate admin account that has access to all the folders in our system. During the year, as documents or folders are no longer needed, staff move them into the current year’s archive folder. Once a year, we also do a “spring cleaning” to move files that haven’t been accessed or modified in over a year into the appropriate archive folder. Once an archive folder is a couple years old, it’s unshared with all staff, so those files no longer appear in search results (it will still be shared with the admin account, though, if we ever need to go back and find an old file).

Folder and File Naming Conventions

Define folder and file naming conventions up front and communicate them to all staff.

  • Ideas for what to include in a file name include:
    • Department or project name (or a shortened code)
    • Date of file if it’s associated with a specific date (e.g. meeting notes)
      • I prefer the YYMMDD format or some version of that so similarly named files sort by alpha nicely
    • Descriptive name so it’s clear what the document is without needing to open it

Keep the naming conventions as simple as you can so they’re easy for staff to use. Here is a sample file naming policy, which is a simpler version of RoundTable’s current policy.

Backup System and Disaster Recovery

Make sure your files are backed up and can be recovered in case of a disaster.

One often overlooked aspect of using a cloud-based document management system is understanding / auditing the backup system and disaster recovery options. All these systems are built with multiple redundancies that in most ways are far superior to anything an organization could manage itself. Don’t get too cozy, though, because some of these systems may have holes or pose different risks than traditional document management systems that could leave you hanging.

For example: What happens if an employee accidentally (or maliciously) deletes an entire department’s folder and then empties the trash? Do you have any way to get all those documents back? Have you checked? Different systems have different levels of control here, but it’s worth the time up front to think through potential scenarios and make sure you have a disaster recovery plan in place (either using the system’s built-in tools, or by using a third party backup system, like NTEN does).

RoundTable has written up a short primer that helps organizations understand backups, disaster recovery and business continuity, and how to think about them for their particular needs.

Ongoing Change Management

Cloud-based document management is very different from traditional file servers. Training is clearly important, but ongoing change management is equally, if not more important.

Traditional file servers have barely changed in the past 20 years. In 1996, you could open an explorer window, view a list of shared network drives (the F drive, the N drive, etc) and access your organizational files. This is still the primary manner by which most organizations handle document management in 2016. Cloud-based document management has changed more in the past five years than traditional file sharing did in twenty years. Staying up to date with all of the functionality and potential benefits is a Sisyphean task. Unfortunately, it’s also a critically important task.

Consider how your organization will support continuous learning and improvement of your cloud-based document management system to ensure that your staff are given the opportunity to not only access, but understand and optimize the tools that can help them thrive.

RoundTable has a weekly 30-minute all-staff virtual meeting. Five to ten minutes of this are dedicated to skills training, every week. Sometimes it’s as simple as sharing tips and tricks, but we commit 5-10 minutes per week for all staff to learn something about our systems.

We hope you’ve found these tips useful, and we’d love to hear any of your ideas or tips that we may have left out.

Photo credit: opensource.com

  • 14 Staff
  • $1.4 million budget

Started in 2005, the NonProfit Organizations Knowledge Initiative, or NPOKI, is a collaboration among large global health organizations to provide performance measurement standards, information management tools and services to health-related Non-Government Organizations. Staff is almost entirely distributed, working out of their homes or on the road helping clients in every corner of the world.

Many of NPOKIs staff are on sabbatical from member organizations, where they are high-level technology staff, like Chief Information Officers and Chief Technology Officers. This might seem like an advantage when looking at ways that technology help the organization, but Surya Ganguly, Director of Consulting, said the organization doesnt think technology through, because we think these people can support themselves.

As a result, the organization rarely spends much money on technology, which makes it difficult to foster collaboration or plan around technology. Staff has found this to be a huge struggle, particularly when it comes to file sharing.

The organizations first foray into online file sharing was back in 2006, when it implemented Groovea solution intended to help organizations synchronize files on desktopsand a file server with a Cloud repository. This seemed like a promising solution for its difficult needs supporting both online and offline work. However, Microsoft purchased Groove and subsequently changed the support and infrastructure needed for the service. Soon after, the organization decided it simply wasnt practical to keep the solution.

Groove stopped being a standalone product, Surya said. Then you had to have much more expensive SharePoint licenses. We didnt even have a Windows server, and people didnt have any standard [computer] environment.

Adapting its hardware to stay with Groove just didnt make sense, so NPOKI looked to new solutions. For a time, it relied on storing files and sharing via email, a solution Surya called disastrous for document management. Then it moved to Google Docs, which seemed like a viable alternative to SharePoint, as it was free for nonprofits, allowed them to upload the Microsoft Office document they most frequently used, and offered great support.

It was an easy decision, and in many ways a good one, Surya said. Data is all backed up, and we know that we can get to it from anywhere, though it might take longer from some places.

When the organization first considered moving to the Cloud, the board wondered about security implications, but Surya said any fears were unfounded. Weve never had any security related issues in the seven years weve been in the Cloud, he said.

When the organization first considered moving to the Cloud, the board wondered about security implications, but Surya said any fears were unfounded. Weve never had any security related issues in the seven years weve been in the Cloud, he said.

There are other concerns and shortcomings, though, including online/offline issues. Many organizations based solely in the U.S. can depend on reliable and relatively fast internet connections, but thats not true throughout the world.

When a staff member is in Sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, they need to be able to store documents on their laptop and then synch them up later, he said. We had a staff member in South Africa and he couldnt get documents.

Access to Google Docs files is certainly not bulletproof, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. The bandwidth requirements there are not what Google considers the minimum requirements. Google Docs often wont work there. Surya experienced similar issues when he was in China. Emails would show up, but attachments were stripped, he said.

Its also time consuming to have to log in to a web interface to upload or download documents, as opposed to automatically keeping a folder synchronized, he said.

For the future of document management for us, it needs to be integrated with what people are doing with folders on their desktop, he said. Even if youre tech savvy, as we are, its just too much work to go into an interface and figure out changes and all that.

Currently, NPOKI is experimenting with Dropbox and Microsoft 360 Live to see if theyre better able to meet its needs.

Were generating a lot of documents, but finding them and reusing them later is hard, he said. Once a year or so, Ill look at space issues and do a little bit of housekeeping, but right now our storage is about 25GB, and it wont really be an issue until we get to 100GB. The organization rarely deletes documents, and finds that the file structure can grow to a point where its difficult to find documents, as no one is really in charge of maintaining it.

However, moving from Grooves installed-and-hosted hybrid to Google Docs Cloud solution has saved staff a considerable amount of time overall. The previous system sometimes went down unexpectedly, and staff would have to reinstall the software. It also required a fairly involved process to set up new usersall told, Surya said he used to spend one to two hours each week on Groove administration.

Thats time hes now able to put to better use, working with NPOKIs clients.

Editor’s note: This case study is part of an NTEN research series on Nonprofit Infrastructure in the Cloud, which was conducted in May, 2012, and prepared by Idealware. You canread the overview article for this study, and find the other case studies in this seriesin our case-study section.

On April 24, Google announced the much anticipated Google Drive service, a cloud-based “disk drive” where individuals and organizations can store there documents, spreadsheets and a host of other electronic files. That may sound like a big deal but organizations and individuals with Google accounts could do that already using Google Docs. So does Google Drive really matter?

In short, the answer is yes! Despite its infancy, Google Drive has the real potential to overcome some of the limitations of the Google Apps environment that have prevented many individuals and organizations from adopting the platform as a replacement for traditional storage options like servers and local disk drives. Google Drive is also part of the Google Apps for Non Profits platform which many organizations have started to adopt as a way of migrating to the cloud. Here is just a short list of features and why they matter:

Data Synchronization

One of the most significant limitations of Google’s previous storage option, Google Docs, was the lack of a convenient way of synchronizing data to a laptop or desktop. While there are a bunch of third-party tools that allow you to sync your local desktop files to Google Docs, most of them just didn’t quite work the way people are used to doing things. Google Drive changes that. With a simple download, Google Drive users can synchronize their Microsoft Office and other files between their local machine and Google Drive. In fact, your Google Drive data shows up much like your current My Documents folder on a Windows-based PC. You can open existing files just as you do now. If you make changes to the file and save it back to your local Google drive, the file automatically syncs to your online Google Drive account if you are connected to the Internet. If you are on the road and not connected, the files will sync to Google Drive the next time your machine is connected to the Internet.

Ubiquitous Access

What if you could seamlessly and securely access all of your working files from your desktop, smartphone and tablet from wherever you are? This is one of the key components of Google Drive. Because your electronic files are synchronized to a cloud-based storage, you can access your data from anywhere (with a decent Internet connection) across multiple devices. If you make a change from one device, you will see that change on all of your other devices (assuming you are connected to the Internet so that your device can sync). No more emailing documents back and forth to yourself to access them on multiple devices.

N.B.: While Google Drive IS supported on a Macintosh, it is NOT currently available on the iPhone or iPad but Google has promised this capability soon. Let’s face it, Google has to support the leading smartphone and tablet platform!

Expanded File Support

When Google Docs first launched, only files created using Google’s online applications were supported. But over the past 24 months, Google Docs (and now Google Drive) have improved support for widely used applications such as the Microsoft Office suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) and PDF files. But it would appear that Google has upped the game with the announcement of Google Drive. More complicated files like Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop files are now supported. In total, 30 different types of files are supported in Google Drive and the indications are that this will continue to expand as more people adopt the Google Drive solution.


Once your data is part of Google Drive, it becomes readily searchable using Google’s well known and widely used search utility. That does NOT mean everyone in the world can search your data! But within your Google Drive account, you can use Google’s search capabilities to search your own data. As Google states in their policies “what belongs to you stays yours”.

Inexpensive Storage

All Google Drive users get 5 gigabytes (GB) of storage for free (either for personal accounts or under a Google Apps account). That is a fair amount of storage for the average user. But if you need more, you can purchase additional storage for a fairly nominal monthly fee. For example, 25GB of storage is $2.49 per month or about $.10 per gigabyte of storage. Need even more storage? Google offers solutions up to 16 terabytes (that is 16,384 gigabytes!). To put that into perspective, most 501cTECH clients use between 500 and 750 GB of total storage for all of the organization’s data (including email). One terabyte of storage (1000 GB) using Google Drive would cost an organization about $600 per year.

Not So Fast!

Before you go throwing out your servers and copying all of your data to Google Drive, a word of caution. While Google has a tremendous amount of experience managing massive amounts of data, Google Drive is still brand new and not without limitations. Some initial testing shows that there are a few hiccups left to be sorted out and Google Drive is still not directly accessible from platforms like iPhones and iPads. But the capabilities of Google Drive are pretty hard to ignore.

This article was originally published at: http://www.501ctech.org/google-drive-does-it-matter/