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Best practices for spatial data file and folder management

Question asked by env.matt.wilkie on Jun 28, 2017
Latest reply on Jul 2, 2018 by DakeHenderson

The GIS Data Administration topic on the wiki is an excellent high level overview of the various server level strategies available and in what situations to apply them. I’m looking for something similar with a focus on personal and small workgroup beast practices for local file and folder management. So one level below the server GIS data admin.


Our server level spatial data management is pretty good (albeit with ample room for improvement!). However we still have gigabytes to terabytes of GIS data and projects scattered throughout various offices in the organization that is effectively useless to a wider audience without the individual who created them present to interpret the file and folder arrangements.


What guidelines can we give people starting new projects that will minimize unnecessary local variation while still being adaptive to local circumstance and make it easier for

  • new staff to pick and run with an existing project (because structure is predictable)
  • to distinguish intermediate working and in-progress stuff from the polished and ready to go stuff (like milestones and deliverables)
  • data administrators to float the useful data to the top (to the corporately managed geodatabases)
  • share externally

Listed more or less in order of priority. Our organization operates within a 90% ArcGIS Desktop ecosystem, though some other platforms are used here and there as well.


My question is broader than just how to store the geometry files and attribute tables. A typical project also uses and produces MXDs, (aprx for Pro), input data, external reference data, interim data, output data, python scripts, toolboxes, models, output files (pdf, jpeg, …), raster imagery, layer files, word docs, text docs, … in addition to file-gdb and shapefiles.


In a well managed project, where does all this stuff go and how is it named?