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How to clear out data for your small business

It’s very easy for businesses to fall into the “just-in-case” trap. They keep paperwork (or its digital counterpart) to the extent that they are legally permitted “just in case” and as a result, bit by bit, they become overwhelmed by (digital) “stuff”, which is not really needed and certainly not wanted.

clear out data for your small business

Clearing out this “stuff” and stopping it from building up again can do wonders for a business’ productivity. General Manager, Joe Muddiman from RADS Document Storage shares his three top tips to help.

1. Think about what you need to keep rather than what you can afford to lose

Even the smallest businesses have to comply with GDPR, which means that personal data should already be collected on the basis of defined need and retained for only as long as is necessary to fulfil its purpose.

GDPR is, essentially, all about protecting the individual and hence does not legally apply to general data (i.e. data which cannot directly identify an individual). There is, however, nothing whatsoever to stop a business looking at the principles of GDPR and applying them to non-sensitive data.

In particular, it is very much recommended for businesses to look at data in terms of what they need to keep and why rather than what they can risk throwing away/deleting.

2. Develop a retention schedule

Some data is evergreen but much of it will age, especially data which is only being kept for compliance purposes. This means that in addition to knowing what data you are keeping (and where you are keeping it), you will need to take a decision on the length of time for which it needs to be kept and what is to be done with it afterwards.

If the answer to point two is shredding then you may want to give serious consideration to outsourcing this, partly to save your staff time and partly to ensure that is done in compliance with all legal requirements (and that you have proof of this).

3. Initiate a policy of working electronically by default

At this point in time, this is perfectly feasible in most environments and even when it is not, for example, you’re dealing with legal documents which are still required to be kept or paper or dealing with a demographic which still prefers paper (e.g. older people). You have the option to scan the paper documents immediately and then either move them into archive storage (for legal documents) or just dispose of them safely.

In short

Businesses may not realise how much their productivity is being held back by the build-up of records until they actually do something about it and see the difference it makes.

For example, while it may be obvious that clearing out old paper-based records can free up space in the office, it may be less obvious than the reduced need for space could result in a company being able to reduce the size of its office (and hence save itself some money) or find space for a desk for an extra staff member to help the business grow.

More on the risk of neglecting data management and how to reduce the effects of a data breach.

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