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How Long Should You Keep Past Projects Online?

Many web-based project management tools base their rates on the number of active projects you have open at any time. That makes the question of when to remove or archive old projects a financial question as well as an organizational concern. Making that decision should be a matter of policy within your organization, but there are a couple of concerns that need to be addressed before you set that policy.

The Archiving Option

Brian Casel uses Basecamp for his web design business, CasJam Media. Basecamp uses a per-project pricing scheme, basing the price you pay each month on the number of active projects you have. That creates an incentive to archive old projects as soon as possible, making them inactive and therefore keeping your price for project management software from increasing. Casel notes, “Projects stay active as long as long as they’re still being worked on. As a web designer, my projects usually last one to three months and sometimes go longer.”

He hasn’t seen a need to delete archived projects: the system doesn’t remove data from archived projects, making it possible to go back and check details if necessary. “I haven’t seen a need to clean out my archived projects. My main concern is keeping my active projects up-to-date and organized,” says Casel.

The Question of Access

How you handle old projects, however, can and should be influenced by who has access to them. Depending on the software you use, you may be able to control exactly what information an individual has access to. That approach may require more work on your part, however. Casel’s system is based on what his sub-contractors need access to: “I generally use Basecamp for my own internal use and communication with sub-contractors. I rarely give Basecamp access to my clients. First, many clients aren’t familiar with how Basecamp works, so I like to keep it simple. But I also separate the two to avoid confusion. There are lots of messages between me and my sub-contractors that are more production-oriented and not intended for the client to see. When projects are completed and archived, I sometimes remove sub-contractors access and grant access only to those who are currently part of my team, which tends to change month-to-month. ”

If you aren’t in a position to closely control which projects a client or contractor has access to, it may be necessary to remove past projects from your online archives. Of course, you’ll want to keep a file that you can check back on, but removing the temptation for a contractor to look back at what clients you’ve worked with and other, similarly valuable information, can be an important decision for an organization.

How do you decide when to delete or archive past projects?

Image by Flickr user Brett Kelly

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One Response to “How Long Should You Keep Past Projects Online?”

  1. Good question. I work for LiquidPlanner, and some of our customers have tens of thousands of tasks in hundreds of projects, and of course many of those projects have been completed. We charge per user instead of per project, so cost isn’t the issue — clutter is.

    In our system, it’s a matter of “filtering” out done projects. Marking a project as “done” removes them from most filters, but they never really disappear. You can organize done projects into groups by year/department/etc. to suit your own team. For my personal use, I like being able to go back in time to get information about the things I was working on 2-3 years ago, but I definitely don’t want to see it every day.