Filing is an important part of any organization as it allows you to keep all data save and accessible. Like everything else around us, filing systems have also evolved in the past centuries and decades, providing more options to classify and file data according to your preference. While most organizations now follow digital filing systems, traditional filing systems also exist and are inevitable for many companies.
What are Filing Systems?
A filing system may be simply defined as the method of gathering and categorizing data for easy access when needed. Filing systems are the need of every organization to keep memos, circulars, bills, and other important documents and data safe. Filing systems are divided based on different factors.
One of the filing system categorizations works on how the data is classified. They are also called the filing classification system and are named:
- Alphabetical Filing System
- Numeric Filing System
- Alphanumeric Filing System
- Terminal Digit Filing System
While these are the file classification system, filing systems are more about storing the data than classifying.
Types of Filing Systems
Filing systems are typically classified into two categories with sub-categories. The types of filing systems include;
Traditional Filing System
Traditional filing systems are the ones that have been used since the beginning and are still operated in some organizations according to the need. They cannot be completely removed from the filing systems, and they provide a purpose in some places. There are five types of traditional filing systems, some of which are outdated, while some are still in utilization.
Bundle filing is the most primitive kind of filing system. In bundle filing, all the documents of a particular period are put together in a piece of cloth and tied. These bundles are arranged date-wise in racks. They were used in the old times to keep them together in one place and find the documents concerning the time they were produced or came in.
Wire filing is also known as spike filing as it makes use of a spike or wire attached to a wooden base either kept on the table or hung at a higher surface. The sharp end of the wire is used to insert the documents and letters into the wire to be accessed for later use. As newer letters are punched above the previous, they are arranged in chronological order and taken out in the same order if needed.
This method has been commonly used in small and medium-sized organizations as the wire hoop can only contain a small number of documents. They are susceptible to fire and not as safe as other methods of filing.
Why wire filing?
- Easily organized
- Takes less space
- Cheapest method
Pigeon Hole filing
As the name suggests, pigeon-hole filing makes use of cabinets shaped like pigeon holes. Documents are usually categorized in alphabetical order, and each hole is given an alphabet for easy sorting. It is also known as docket filing. Pigeon hole filing cannot keep a lot of data and is primarily used in small organizations.
Why pigeon hole filing?
- Protection from dust
- Takes less time
- It does not cost much
Cardboard filing is one of the earliest forms of filing that uses cardboard for filing. There are flaps on both sides of the cardboard with laces. These laces are used to tie both flaps together, securing the documents inside them. These documents are also put in chronological order, and the cardboard files are kept safe in cabinets. However, as these files are made of cardboard, they are not safe outside and must be kept in a cabinet.
Why cardboard filing?
- Takes less space
- Quick documentation
The last of traditional filing systems is box filing. Box filing makes use of cardboard boxes to keep the documentation. Spring clips are attached to the box to keep the documents safe and accessible when needed. The documents are usually put chronologically, and separate boxes are used for different subjects. It is a common traditional filing method but not preferred due to technical issues. Sometimes the papers are not held adequately due to the spring being loose over a period.
Why box filing?
- Cheap and convenient
- Saves the files from spillage and dust
- Easy to sort documents
Modern Filing Systems
As it was observed that traditional filing systems are good for small and medium-sized businesses, large ones use modern filing systems. They are divided into several sub-categories.
Horizontal filing comprises documents in folders or files placed over one another horizontally. There are two kinds of horizontal files; flat files and arch files.
Flat files have metal or plastic clips or laces on the left side of the file. Holes are punched in the paper using a punching machine and inserted into the file. Usually, documents are placed in chronological order, and you need to take out succeeding papers to take out a particular document.
Arch files have arches or round clips on the left side of the file. Paper is punched using a punch machine and then inserted into the file. You can easily find any document you want by opening the rings and searching for one.
Using horizontal filing can sometimes be time-consuming to find the right file.
Why horizontal filing?
- Easy to operate
- Convenient to find files
- Many documents can be placed in one place
Vertical filing is more convenient than horizontal filing as it is easier to locate the documents you are looking for. The files are placed in an upright position, and the names on the files are visible. Vertical filing uses the following equipment:
- Guide card
Why vertical filing?
- Easy to find documents
- It is economical
- Keeps the documents safe
Suspension filing has advantages of vertical filing with an added benefit of suspended folders that make it even more simple to use and access documents. The drawer has a metal rod to suspend the documents attached to hinges. The need for extra equipment makes it a bit more expensive than other filing methods.
Why suspension filing?
- Easy access
- Extra safe
Latera filing system is one of the most popular methods of filing in modern offices. They make use of envelope-like folders closed by metal strips. The folders are hung laterally on metal shelves for easy reach.
Why lateral filing?
- Most convenient
- Easy to find documents
Open shelf filing
Open shelf filing is commonly used for documents that need to be at an arm’s distance. The files or folders are laterally or horizontally kept on the shelves with proper classification. It is usually used in large offices to cater to massive amounts of data. However, the data is not very safe as it is open to all.
Why open shelf filing?
- Easy to reach
- Convenient to find documents
Most modern offices use electronic filing as the main filing system to store data and documents. With advancements in technology, digital, cloud-based filing methods are also being adopted in offices globally, saving the cost of paper and keeping it safe while being accessible.
Why electronic filing?
- Saves the cost of paper
- Accessible to all authorized people
- Ensures safety of documents
The Bottom Line
Filing systems are an integral part of any office, whether it is a small organization or a large business. While some organizations follow traditional filing systems, others are moving to modern types of filing systems and digital options. Ensuring the right kind of filing system for any organization can make documents easy to store and more accessible to authorized persons.
Matthew is a Co-Founder at BusinessFinanceArticles.org. Matthew was a floor manager at a local restaurant in Wales. He lost his job after the pandemic and took initiative to make a team and start the project.