Considerations for selection
A host of variables will affect how each office makes its equipment selections. Factors range from cost and required floor space to appearance and office aesthetics. Each office has unique needs. The capabilities, advantages, and disadvantages of different types of equipment must be measured in the context of those unique system requirements.
The most common varieties of filing equipment are:
Vertical drawer cabinets -- continues in widespread use although it is the most costly of all filing equipment. Vertical drawer cabinets require more floor space, and more physical effort and time to access folders than other types of equipment. Vertical drawer cabinets consume 5.8 square feet of floor space (with drawer extended) and hold only about 100 inches of files.
Lateral cabinets -- used in some offices as an alternative to vertical drawer cabinets. They have essentially the same limitations as vertical cabinets, although they can provide some space savings as well as retrieval efficiency. A 5 drawer lateral cabinet occupies approximately 6.8 square feet of floor space and holds almost 2.5 times more than a vertical drawer cabinet.
Open shelves -- open shelving provides high density access to file folders while occupying significantly less floor space than a vertical or lateral cabinet. They are often the fastest and most convenient filing equipment to use. Open shelves are readily adaptable to the storage and management of paper records, magnetic media, microforms, and all other records formats. They typically cost 1/3 less than vertical and lateral cabinets. However, open shelves do not offer security for confidential or vital records.
Mechanical files (rotary equipment) -- folders are stored in open shelf carriers that provide high-density storage. The mechanical carriers rotate in a carrousel format to bring the desired record closer to the user. Other than moveable shelving, mechanical files use the least amount of floor space. Mechanical files, however, are expensive, allow only one person to access records at one time, and can be the victim of power or equipment failures. Also note that mechanical files, due to their weight, require a high structural floor load capacity.
Moveable shelves (high density files) -- mobile files are open shelf files constructed on tracks which enable them to move. As only one aisle is necessary per several rows of shelving, moveable shelves provide space savings of over 40%. Moveable shelves, however, are expensive and allow only one row of folders to be accessed at a time. Like mechanical files, due to their weight, moveable shelves require a high structural floor load capacity.