Where do I store documents? Off-site document storage – what’s that? Maybe not the initial questions a business owner asks themselves when starting their business. But as many find out through the process, and as they grow, the amount of information your organization holds increases. With hard copy documents this can become an issue quickly. What starts out as one box of documents can grow into a collection large enough to fit a whole office. Eventually, the question arises – where do I put these and how long do I keep them?
Different information sets have different retention periods. A customer invoice and a vendor contract may or may not be required to be kept for the same amount of time. The invoice may only need to be kept for 3 years – the contract – 6 years. Taking into consideration the needs of a business and the regulations that govern retention will help to decide just how long to keep varying records. As research is conducted, you’ll find that a typical retention period for most regulated industries is between three to seven years. Does that mean, every piece of paper produced needs to be stored for that amount of time? Of course not. But it does provide a guideline to help maintain compliance and avoid risk. And while not every piece of paper that is produced needs to be kept, more often than not, businesses find that vital information is stored on the majority that are, resulting in a collection of documents that grows at a rapid pace.
*Bonus* – Check out this sample retention schedule
It can seem an easy solution at first – an extra office, a closet or hallway – typical places boxes of documents are stored- and it starts harmlessly enough. One room seems more than capable of storing information. Growth continues and the need for the “storage office” to house new personnel arrives – begging the question, where do the boxes go? A temporary solution is devised but is quickly outgrown. Scrambling to find a place to house vital documents becomes a headache and the task wears down even the most ardent employee.
The Purpose of Off-Site Document Storage
This scenario is not all that uncommon, particularly for SMB’s. However, establishing policy and procedure for the storage and protection of hard copy information alleviates the headache. When it comes to off-site document storage as a solution, businesses are able to house their vital and archival information in a single location with access to all of it when they need it. It’s that simple. And as boxes are added the opportunity is afforded to properly classify information so an organization knows where to find it accurately and quickly. No wasted space putting boxes of documents in a spare room. No searching through information to find the file you need. And of course, the security and protection of information is ensured through the safety and security protocols that come along with utilizing a records and information management partner.
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
― Benjamin Franklin
Having procedure in place is key in every aspect of a business. This holds especially true for the management of information that is collected and held. Off-site document storage presents the security, efficiency, and compliance needed to effectively store and retrieve information. It turns what may be a weakness of some businesses into a strength, allowing for the space an office occupies to be allocated appropriately.
While ignoring the potential growth of information can be a common mistake, it does not have to be. Knowing growth is part of the process, organizations can prepare to best meet their information management needs by tailoring records management programs that are specific and easily executable.
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