Here’s how I organize stuff:
I start by defining between things I work on and things I want to hang on to: data and projects. We do have a NAS, and it’s set up the same way. I’ve found that simple distinction helps a lot for me and is perfect for what I spend most of my time doing, and makes it an easy way to start organizing files.
Data generally contains all of the stuff that I didn’t make. So music, videos, copyrighted photo reference, and other downloaded stuff goes here. Data has the following directories: __sort, audio, documents, downloads, images, music, preferences, videos. Again, this is all stuff that has nothing to do with my projects. If I use something in my library as reference for one of my projects, I’ll make a copy and put in in the “references” folder in my project.
Projects contains the stuff I’m currently working on. Projects has the following directories: __sort, 3d_animation_workshop, freelance, personal, photos, projects-archive, studio.
Some projects are so huge that I give them their own directories, such as the 3D Animation Workshop. I do a lot of little freelance projects so inside of that I’ll create a folder for each project. After it’s done I’ll move them to the projects-archive folder to be backed up regularly. I also take a lot of photos so I have a folder for that, which is especially good for reference. Personal projects that I’m doing for myself have their own directory, as well as stuff we are doing for our studio if it’s not on the NAS for some reason.
You’ll notice I have a __sort folder everywhere. It’s basically a misc or temp folder, but it serves as a note that it’s not organized.
Each folder also has it’s own organization scheme depending on the project. Music is organized in a certain way, as well as movies, documents, etc. I’m not really anal about organization after the first few levels because it is so specific to each project. And sometimes I have to work so fast I just put everything into one folder and don’t worry about it.
I would talk about organization for my library but only if someone asks because it’ll take a while.
One thing I am anal about is nomenclature. You might have noticed that all my file names are lower case and have no spaces, just dashes and hyphens. Aside from the usual things that can go wrong with using filenames that have spaces and caps in Unix-based systems and on the web, having good file names helps me search for files. I use the search a lot to find old files, and I actually find them without fail very quickly. Because I’m anal about the first few levels in the directory structure I can search for a video file really quick because I know that it will be in /data/videos/reference/. That’s a lot faster than searching the whole hard drive.
That’s the general organization for my computer. Data and Projects are on different partitions, while my operating system and applications are on another hard drive. So If I need to make a backup of my system I know I can just completely erase that whole drive and not worry about a thing (I have the drivers and install files under /data/downloads/program_installs/ so I don’t have to worry about my applications either).