These days the move to digital documentation has gone a long way towards reducing the level of physical space businesses need to devote to documentation and storage, however, it has not necessarily reduced any of the other challenges involved in creating an effective document storage system.
Fortunately, the right solution can become a lot more obvious by asking five key questions, as given by the General Manager at Rads Document Storage, Joe Muddiman.
Do I need to store physical documents or only digital ones?
Even in the 21st century, there are still some documents which need to be kept in paper format for legal purposes, although they are now the exception rather than the rule. It may, however, still be a good idea to keep a digital copy of such documents so that there is some kind of back-up in the event of the original being damaged or destroyed. In principle, any other form of documentation can be kept in digital-only format; however, there may be a case for keeping hard copies of at least some of your documents, for example, if you would like to show them to third-parties without having to arrange network connectivity in a meeting.
For how long must the documents be retained?
A robust document-retention policy will ensure that you keep documents for as long as necessary (e.g. for legal purposes) and only for as long as necessary. Even if you have a digital-only storage system, you generally want to avoid the temptation to put documents into storage on an indefinite basis as this is just asking for documents to be kept long beyond the point at which they are relevant and therefore ultimately just replacing physical clutter with digital clutter and as we all know clutter makes it harder to find what we actually need.
How often and how quickly do the documents need to be accessed?
You may well find that your overarching document-storage policy has to accommodate a number of different types of document with the result that you actually end up using a combination of onsite digital archiving, offsite digital archiving, onsite paper archiving, offsite paper archiving, onsite paper storage and cloud storage (both onsite and offsite) depending on the extent to which your various documents need to be accessed and the speed with which they need to be accessed.
How do I keep track of what documents are stored where?
As can be seen from the above point, it is absolutely vital that businesses have a solid document-indexing system in place so that they can easily keep tabs on what documents are where, or perhaps it would be better to say, in the custody of whom. In other words, every single document should have a custodian, who is responsible for making sure that its whereabouts is known at all times. This may involve creating a “library” system of people checking documents out and in and any staff with access company documentation need to be educated on the importance of following any and all policies, even if they consider them an inconvenience.
How do I keep my documents secure?
Data security is a massive topic in its own right, for now suffice it to say, any business-document-storage policy should data security front and centre at all times.