Choosing a Filing System

June 23, 2011


Filing cabinets were first introduced in the U.S. in the late 1800s. In his patent application, Henry Brown described his invention as a “receptacle for storing and preserving papers.” A couple of years later, the first vertical file storage system was introduced. That innovation remains a staple in most businesses to this day. While electronic documents have replaced traditional paper to some extent, physical file storage remains a priority. Here are some basic tips that might help when choosing the optimal filing system for your business.

There are basically two types of filing cabinets. Most people are amply familiar with vertical file cabinets that feature a traditional stacked-drawer configuration.  The number of drawers can vary according to one’s needs, from two to five is common. Papers and documents are stored in a front to back arrangement and may be organized in folders.

Vertical file cabinets are a good choice when space is at a premium. They are narrower than their counterparts and, as their name suggests, they maximize the use of vertical space.

In contrast, lateral files, the other common type of filing system, are wider and feature larger drawers. They can be designed to fit under or beside work surfaces or, alternatively, can function as a divider between work spaces. In addition, vertical files allow for more flexibility. Documents can be stored from side to side as well as front to back and drawers can accomodate both legal and standard size paper.

Other considerations for both types of filing cabinets are fire resistance and durability, price, quality of construction, and design features such as color, material, and style. 

Purchasing filing cabinets as part of an overall systems furniture package can help ensure space optimization and a good fit relative to other work space components. It also assures that colors and other design elements match, resulting in a more visually pleasing outcome overall.