Anyone who has moved understands the importance of marking boxes with both contents and location. One of the great things about our online Gear Technology archive is that it is fully “keyword” searchable. You still have to know those “keywords” or at least be able to guess at them, but within a few minutes you will see a listing of everything we have ever published on that topic.
Contrast that with the average home or office filing system. “I know it is in here somewhere!” is not a keyword as it usually involves a long search and lots of other not very nice words. Things get even more frustrating when you have to “pick up the trail” on project files created by others.
Early in my travels, I had to resurrect product support data following company acquisitions or consolidations. Not only were there no “maps”, we were not even sure what we were looking for ever existed in the first place. Not all engineers hold to the same level of documentation. Some assume their products are going to be sold forever and that the design is very self evident. Others expect third party reviews and prepare well-reasoned, step by step technical presentations on what they did and why they did it.
In several instances, we knew that records had been preserved only to find that, over the years, said files were discarded by well meaning people who had no idea what they were tossing in the dumpster. Other times, the records were so poorly protected that they were illegible once we finally located them.
Modern information management systems are supposed to make archiving more efficient and reliable. As noted previously, technology moves quickly but is not always backwards compatible. Just because you have a disc in your hands does not mean you will be able to access the data on it.
Anyone responsible for product support files should do what they can to leave a good “trail” for their successors. Mark the boxes, preserve the electronic files, and above all leave instructions behind on where things are and why they are important.