Nine Dos and Don'ts of Records Storage

Have you been too busy actually attending to your core business to address records-management best practices? You may be wasting your organisation's time and/or resources on records storage activities you don't have to handle by yourself. Consider this short list of rules to turn your plan around.

When it comes to records storage, are you doing the best for your organisation? Though you and your colleagues would never willingly expose your business's proprietary systems to hackers or rivals, the day-to-day demands of doing business often cause organisations to neglect this area.

Is There Room for Improvement?

Improperly stored records can cost your organisation time, money and productivity, according to recent Iron Mountain research. The professionals polled in one customer survey say they spend half of their working hours searching for mission-critical information. What's more, 81% are concerned about their ability to access vital files.

These findings are unacceptable—especially when you consider the needs of various departments. Internal and external audits from your finance department call for complete, accurate financial data; your customer service operation must have a client's complete history at arm's reach to be truly responsive; and your legal team may make discovery requests that require immediate attention.

Store records correctly, and your business has a much better chance of reaching its most efficient, profitable potential. And while every business has needs specific to its industry, the following dos and don'ts here apply to any organisation looking to establish records management best practises:

1. Don't keep everything; do identify vital records.

Some companies cling desperately to every scrap of information—at the cost of making the more valuable data that much harder to find. Instead, securely destroy unnecessary, dead or least-used files according to your retention schedule. Move nonessential information from the "active" list. Flag mission-critical information and give it top indexing, storage and access priority.

2. Don't pay for valuable office space to maintain records; do outsource records storage.

Unless you have an exceptional lease on storage space and don't mind hiring in-house records staff, consider teaming up with a trusted offsite storage supplier. This way, you can box the files, affix them with bar codes and call the vendor for pick-up. Then they're out of your way until the next audit or legal discovery calls for them.

3. Don't put unneeded records in cold storage; do destroy them.

Go ahead, hit the delete button—but only after creating a sensible retention schedule that conforms to any and all applicable auditing or regulatory rules.

4. Don't scan everything; do develop a hybrid records management strategy.

Though scanning it all is tempting, it doesn't make sense, and it costs you time and money. Begin by digitising only your most-used files—typically those necessary for compliance or operational processes. Know that paper will remain a storage medium for some time to come, despite business's best efforts to convert expediently.

5. Don't complicate access; do use a simplifying desktop upload tool.

Scanning is only one important part of a records management strategy. Easy access to records is critical. A smart, simple interface lets authorised users store converted digital documents in a single location, which fosters a sense of control and responsibility. Andallow simultaneous access by multiple users—avoid queues as much as possible.

6. Don't put an administrative assistant in charge of stored records; do hire a records manager.

As alluring as it might be from a budget standpoint, you need more expertise to manage the records room archives. Searches go faster with someone in charge and accountable. A records manager coordinates and oversees the Chain-of-Custody of audit information and legal discovery as well as other requests, and assesses your strategy to recommend future upgrades.

7. Don't allow everyone equal privileges; do set a policy for storage and access.

Not every employee has the same need for—or right to—every bit of information in your archives. Develop a policy that's both user-friendly and takes into consideration the way your company operates and uses information.

8. Don't forget to include storage in your disaster recovery plan; do provide for records protection.

How many organisations have gone out of business or struggled to get going again after a major disaster? How quickly you can access and activate stored records will make a tremendous difference in whether your business gets up and running after a disaster, be it natural or manmade, major or minor.

9. Don't ignore advances in imaging, storage and information management; do solicit the aid of a trusted supplier.

Changes in technology and information management processes will continue to shape the way companies do business. To simply toss records into storage is to ignore efficiencies and cost savings in the future. Select a supplier that will keep on top of technology, compliance and all other best practises so you don't have to.

Follow these guidelines and you'll avoid many of the pitfalls of managing stored records. Your business will thrive thanks to the efficiencies and cost savings that a thoughtful information management system can bring.

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