Records management staff and equipment

Hiring the right records management firm can make all the difference. In this article, we will explore the staff characteristics and equipment necessary to ensure smooth delivery of your records.

First, it goes without saying that records management staff should be experienced professionals. Always look for a dedicated records management firm. A good records management firm will have their employees covered by liability insurance, including cases of “employee dishonesty”

Furthermore, a prospective records management firm should have “Information Security Agreement" or “non-disclosure” agreement on file for each employee. These contracts help ensure the security of the information contained in your records.

When hiring new employees, the ideal records management firm will first test potential applicants to determine their aptitudes for different records management responsibilities. After that, employees should be given a company training course to properly train them in their duties, as well as safety and security measures. Additional training courses in proper lifting techniques and operational equipment should also be implemented. Employees should wear weight lifting belts while lifting.

All couriers (delivery drivers) working for a prospective records management firm should have a good driving record. Ideally, your records management firm will have these records on file.

When selecting a records management firm, it is also important to consider the company’s drug testing program. Do they test new employees upon hire? Do they randomly drug test current employees.

As far as equipment is concerned, take a tour of a prospective records management facility. The first thing to look for in an off-site records management facility is its fleet of pickup and delivery vehicles. A good records management firm should have enough vehicles of varying sizes and types to accommodate prompt pickup and delivery of all its clients’ records. Also consider the general condition of the vehicles, as well as the presence of communications equipment (radios, etc.). Since the speedy delivery of your documents is vital to accessibility, be sure your records management firm perform regular maintenance on all its vehicle according to a fixed schedule.

Next, take a look at the equipment used in storing and managing records at the facility. While different records management firms can use any number of storage configurations, the warehouse space should be organized in such a way as to facilitate accessibility. Moreover, there needs to be enough moving equipment – conveyers, pallet jacks, and forklifts, among others – to enable facility workers to have your records loaded onto trucks in the shortest possible time.

Finally, consider the communications and other office equipment at the records management facility. A good facility should have ample phone and fax lines –and enough employees to handle all the calls – in the case of an emergency or high-call volume.

By following the tips and guidelines provided in this article, you will no doubt have an enjoyable and hassle-free experience with your new records management firm.

Benefits of a Climate Controlled Environment

What would happen if you were to store your documents in an area with inconsistent and unstable temperatures? How would your papers, microfilm, disks, hard drives, and other documents fair after a long period of storage under these conditions? An inconsistent or inhospitable environment can lead to discoloration, paper loss, water damage, mold and mildew, malfunctions in electronic equipment, ultimately resulting in lost data. Special care needs to be given to sensitive accounting and other records, which often need to be stored for long periods of time. Additionally, consider climate controlled storage for all archival documents as well.

Storage units have to be a place where businesses can have an area(s) where customers or businesses themselves can trustingly keep their documents. A good records management facility will offer storage in a climate controlled environment. Such climate controlled storage units are areas where the temperature and humidity are maintained at optimum levels. Too much heat or moisture, after all, can spell disaster for your documents over the long haul. A good climate controlled storage facility will have all of its equipment undergo regularly scheduled maintenance. The goal of climate controlled storage is to prevent damage to items from excessive heat, moisture, mold, and accidents. Using a dedicated records management facility that offers a climate controlled environment is an important step in proper records management. If your documents are destroyed or damaged by the elements, then their accessibility is compromised. Why bother storing documents if you can’t read them later on?

First, a records management facility should be able to prevent water damage. The obvious causes of water damage are leaks and flooding. Flooding doesn’t always occur because of a natural disaster. A ruptured pipe or water main in another building can inundate surrounding structures. Make sure that your documents are stored in a building with a good watertight roof. Also check to make sure all documents are stored at least three inches off the ground.

Second, a records management facility should offer an environment with low humidity. Humidity can wrinkle documents over time, and cause all sorts of fading and other discolorations. With humidity, mold and mildew can also become problems. These microscopic organisms can quickly colonize your paper documents, and literally eat them alive.

Finally, a records management facility offering a climate controlled environment should be able to provide your documents constant optimal temperatures. While they might not seem damaging at first, temperature fluctuations can lead to condensation. Hot air, after all, generally carries with it more water vapor than cold air. As the hot air cools down, this vapor consenses into liquid water droplets. These droplets lead to the moisture problems we discussed above.

We have seen how moisture and temperature variations can cause problems for your documents over time. By following the guidelines in this article, and storing your documents in a climate controlled records management facility, all of your records are sure to be clean, fresh, and readable when the time comes to access them.

Managing Special Media

Believe it or not, most paperwork created today does not spend its entire document life cylcle in paper form. Indeed, many records are stored in much more condensed, portable formats. There are a wide variety of file storage formats available, and the standards for file storage are always changing. As a result, most companies today have records formatted on a mix of special media. These formats include microfilm, floppy disks, cartridges, hard drives, and more. Additionally, many modern records are stored in vast server computer databases. In this article, we will explore three common special media available to store records, the problems associated with each, and the ways in which a good records management firm will be able to help your company overcome these problems.

Film- Before computers, hard-drives, and the internet, there was film. Film allowed documents to be captured – literally a photograph of each page – in a size much smaller than the original. There are two difficulties in working with film as a storage device. The first difficulty is accessibility. Reading documents stored on film requires a special magnifying apparatus; these machines are often hooked up to a projection screen. Just looking at your old documents could cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars! The second problem with storing records on film is the fact that film is highly flammable. For this reason, it is of the utmost importance to store all of your film records in a dedicated off-site records management facility. Only a good records management firm has the expertise and environment to store your film records safely. Your records management firm will also have the required equipment to view your microfilm documents; they can even transfer them to a more accessible format for you!

Disks – With the advent of computers, magnetic disks became a popular choice for storing records from the 1970s through the 1990s. While in theory these disks can last forever, new formats have been introduced, and the necessary hardware devices required to access the information on these disks is getting more and more difficult to come by. Most new computers sold today do not contain any sort of floppy disk drive. A good records management center, however, will be able to access your data regardless of the format it is stored on.

Hard disk drives – Beginning in the 1990s, the proliferation of computer equipment made hard disk drives more affordable. As a result, external hard drives became a popular storage option. These drives, however, suffer from the same compatibility problems as the floppy disk. Hardware standards are constantly changing. Most computers produced today cannot access an old hard drive from fifteen or twenty years ago. A good records management facility, on the other hand, will be able to pull records from just about any device and deliver it to you in a timely manner.

What to look for in a records management facility

Storing your records in a dedicated off-site records management facility can be a great way to make your office more efficient, and save money. The key is finding the proper facility to meet your needs. Chances are, you will be storing your valuable records for some time; it is of the utmost importance that you find an off-site facility that is suitable. In this article, we provide a series of questions which, when asked, can help determine if a particular facility meets the stringent requirements for proper records management.

Step 1: Site selection. Site selection is an important step to ensure your records are protected from disasters. When selecting a site, be sure to ask the following questions:

- Is the off-site facility located far enough away from your offices to prevent one single disaster from destroying both the facility and your office? Ideally, your off-site facility should be located a safe distance from your office, yet not so far as to complicate prompt delivery of your records.

- Is the site located in an area prone to flooding? Water is a your paper records' worst enemy. A good facility should have adequate elevation above nearby rivers and oceans. Avoid off-site facilities which are located in an area below sea level.

- Is the site located near an earthquake fault line? No matter how good your records management firm is in protecting your documents, an earthquake can still spell disaster. While most earthquakes do not destroy buildings outright, they do shake up everything inside. Imagine trying to find an important document inside a warehouse literally full of loose papers. For this reason, avoid off-site facilities which are located near known active fault lines.

Step 2: Building Inspection. There are many different types of off-site storage facilities, with a great variety of construction methods. Here are some key question to ask when selecting your off-site facility.

- Is the building safe and durable? Some records need to be stored for a very long time. Before storing your records, find out the expected life, and renovation schedule for any prospective site.

- Does the building have a fire-proof roof? Fire is another great threat to your records. Many times, fires start in one building and can spread to adjacent buildings. Embers caught in the wind can travel for some distance. For this reason, it is important that your records management facility have a sturdy, non-flammable roof.

- Does the building have proper firewalls installed? As you can imagine, a warehouse filled with nothing but old paper documents presents somewhat of a fire hazard. Accidents happen, and proper firewalls play a vital role in keeping a small disaster from turning into a large one.

- Finally, is the facility insured? What is it insured against? Who is responsible for paying insurance premiums? While insurance may not be able to replace certain documents, a cash payout from an insurance company will no doubt help cover the costs associated with a potential loss of records. Ideally, your records management facility should have proper insurance for the building, as well as the building's contents.

Security Through Electronic Records Management Systems

With the dawn of a new century comes a new way for companies to store and manage records. Electronic Document and Records Management Systems (EDRM)s are sets of computer programs and databases which can handle nearly all of a company's records. There are two major security benefits to be enjoyed from EDRMs, which we will explore further in this article.

First, electronic records management systems offer a layer of security. By storing your records on a computer system, they are not left out in the open where they might fall into the wrong hands. Furthermore, electronic records management systems offer different levels of user access. Through the proper use of computer passwords and file permissions, these access levels can provide complete control over who is able to access what information.

For example, an electronic management system for a retail store might be set up in such a way as to allow store managers to view daily receipts, payroll, and inventory. This same system would prevent managers, however, from accessing other critical information which does not concern them. Corporate tax information, accounting records, and even memos between senior company officials can be kept from employees with lower levels of access. By using such a granular approach to records management, each employee has access to all the information he needs, and nothing more. This method of records management increases efficiency by weeding out unnecessary information for your employees. At the same time, electronic records management systems provide security and control over your records.

The second benefit provided by electronic records management systems is accessibility. Accessibility is crucial when it comes time to perform a company audit. With their unparalleled accessibility, electronic records management systems make company audits a breeze. Performing a paper audit involves finding the required paper records in your building (or scheduling a deliver from an off-site records management facility), and then sifting through mountains of paperwork to find the right documents. When following an audit trail, this process usually has to be repeated many times. By storing your company's records in a digital format, however, your company will have instant access to every document it needs at all times. With electronic records management systems, records can be reviewed, and the data they contain can be easily manipulated by other software, such as for accounting and tax purposes. Today, internal audits remain the best way to prevent fraud and theft from occurring in your business, however, they can be very costly. For this reason alone, many companies do not perform adequate audits. Electronic records management systems cut the time and cost of an audit to a fraction of what it once was, allowing you to focus on making more money instead of constantly worrying about theft.

Contact Corporate Storage Services for all your records management, document storage, shredding and scanning needs.  

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