Records Management for Individuals

When we think of records management, we often imagine huge corporations storing truckloads of old paperwork in huge warehouses the size of a city block. These companies are required by law to retain certain documents for extended periods of time. This is not always the case, however. Not every business is a multi-million dollar corporation. In this article, we will outline a few basic steps that small businesses and even individuals can use to take advantage of the benefits of proper records management.

To begin, gather all of your paper records together. Check every surface in your home or office. Most people already implemented some sort of document storage for themselves, be it a large cardboard box, a filing cabinet, or a back room or closet. If you have one of these, take a look inside, and pull out everything that isn’t already well organized and accessible.

First, sort through all your records and pull out the ones which are no longer needed. These can be disposed of, ideally with the help of a paper shredder. Next, sort all records by type. For example, all invoices go together in one group, while all bank statements go into another group. If groups of papers get too large, sort them into smaller groups. Invoices, for example, can be sorted by month. Bank statements can also be sorted by bank account number. There is no wrong way to classify your documents, so long as the system you use is consistent, and makes sense to those who need to access the files later on.

After sorting is complete, it is time to consider your new storage solution. At this point, there are two important things to take into account – the remaining available space, and the rate at which records are generated. Dividing the available space by the amount of paperwork created each week will give you an idea of how long your storage solution will last. When that time period nears its end, it will be time to consider storing your documents in an off-site facility. An experienced records management firm will be able to organize, track, store and provide security for your items. Despite popular belief, most records management firms today can handle very modest amounts of records. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Plan ahead now, and explore the different records management facilities in your area today.

Computer records:

To begin, go through your computer and gather all of your important files. If you are like most people, including the author- chances are these files are scattered throughout your hard drive. Perform a search for the files you need. Generally, important records are stored in some sort of text format – search for spreadsheet, word processor, and plain text (.txt) files. For this reason, it is a good idea to occasionally backup your data onto another storage media, such as CDs, or even an additional external hard drive.

Computerized Management of Paper Records

In the early days of records management, old documents were stored exclusively on paper. Old records – sometimes sorted, sometimes not – were simply placed into cardboard boxes and stored in a warehouse or back room until…whenever. Much has changed over the years in regards to document management. Today, companies are required by law to retain many records for certain periods of time. Failure to do so can result in government sanctions, and even criminal charges. It becomes necessary then, for companies to store and maintain their records, as well as access them at the appropriate time in the future. Fortunately, modern records management firms have advanced computerized records management systems which are up to the task. In this article, we will take a look at how these systems work, and how they help to ensure speedy, hassle-free access to your documents.

First, modern records management facilities make use of bar-codes to track boxes, and sometimes even individual files contained within these boxes. Each box or file that comes into the records management facility receives a bar-code sticker. Ideally these bar-codes will be attached immediately upon arrival at the facility. This sticker is then scanned, and all of the information about the item – such as the item’s owner, contents, status, and retention schedule - is placed into a central computer database. This ensures that each and every record is indeed filed in the correct box. Security measures are strictly enforced in any good records management facility, and only those with authorization from you, the client, will be allowed to move or open any of your stored items.

When files or boxes are moved, or delivered back to their respective owners, they are scanned again, and their location (as well as their status information) is updated in the central computer database. Security measures are strictly enforced in any good records management facility, and only those with authorization from you, the client, will be allowed to move or open any of your stored items.

Using these techniques, all deposited items are accounted for at all times. The owners and locations of each item can be tracked for easy access to files. Clients of the records management facility are typically given a computer print-out, a list of all items stored in the records management facility, and their locations. Some records management firms go a step further by offering clients access to their warehouse inventory database via the Internet. Some of these systems even allow the client to schedule a delivery from anywhere, at any time. By employing a records management firm using such a system, you can rest assured knowing you may never lose another important document again.

Seven threats to your electronic records security.

Your electronic records, no matter the form - computer files, disks, hard drives, solid-state devices - need to be protected. Despite claims that electronic records can last forever, many files never make it to the end of their document life-cycle. In this article we examine some of the major threats to your computer files and document security.

1. Missing laptops- Many companies issue laptop computers to their employees. Laptop computers are wonderful devices which allow employees to work literally anywhere, anytime. These laptops, however, are often lost or stolen, and may fall into the wrong hands.

2. Old computer equipment- Often times, when it comes time to upgrade computer systems, the old machines are thrown away, or auctioned off. Without proper wiping of hard-drives, these computers can leak sensitive company information to whoever uses them next. For this reason, make sure that all of your company's old computers are properly disposes of- either destroyed or wiped clean.

3. Employee errors - There are a number of ways in which employees can leave your company's sensitive information vulnerable. These risks range from getting up from the computer station and not logging out, to losing or damaging a laptop, to accidentally hitting “send to all” for a sensitive email. Not all employees are computer savvy. It is important then, to educate your employees about responsible computer use.

4. Errors in media backups - Backups involve making copies of important data for safe storage in the event of an accident. Sometimes, however, accidents occur while making these backups. Disk errors, for example, happen every so often. While the probability of a disk error at any one moment is very small, the risk increases along with the volume of data being transferred.

5. Too much IT access for employees. Many times, companies get their computer systems working and leave them alone. They never take the time to set up proper controls, and lack of control creates a huge computing risk. By setting up different user accounts, access levels, and file permissions, you can be certain only the right people have access to the right information for them- nothing more.

6. Internet hackers - Don't be fooled by claims of "secure web servers". Nothing can be further from the truth. There are a number of ways for internet hackers to look at or otherwise disrupt your data. These attacks can range from simple snooping, to deleting all your online records, to denial of service (DDOS) attacks which leave your server unavailable for use. The best way to prevent internet hackers is to not have anything of value on your web-enabled servers.

7. Internal employee threats- Believe it or not, some disgruntled or otherwise hostile employees may manipulate, delete, or even destroy a company's computer records. This type of behavior can be simply out of anger, or an attempt to cover up fraud or other crimes.

8. Damaged computers - Accidents happen, and computer equipment is certainly no exception.

Computers can be damaged by everything from a spilled cup of coffee, to a frustrated user who takes out his rage on the machine in front of him.

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

 

Records management checklist

Records management is a simple yet crucial process for any business. It is a process which is often overlooked, and when done properly, can save money and reduce the hassles associated with paperwork. Use this checklist as a reference to make sure you have all your bases covered when it comes to proper records management.

1) Plan out your document needs. Are you looking to free up space in your office? Do you need to store financial data securely? How about medical records or x-rays? These are just a few of the many reasons why companies require record management. Meet with a record management specialist to learn which new space and money saving techniques can improve your business. Your records management specialist will typically inventory the records you have, determine which records you need to keep, and for how long. Records management is not just about off-site storage; it’s about the total control, security and accessibility of your records. You may be surprised to find that many of the documents filling your office in fact do not require long-term storage. For these files, ask your records management specialist about secure file destruction via shredding or other means.

2) Develop a records management plan. When and how often documents are created? Where do they come from? Do these documents need to be stored? If so, where, and for how long? How and when are documents tob e destroyed? These are all questions which need to be answered in the records management plan. Work with your records manager to create a plan for documents over their entire life cycle. Your records management firm will account for each item from the time it is created up until its destruction.

3) Coordinate access to records. Talk to your records management provider to set up a pick-up or delivery schedule. Also inquire about delivery times, and the possibility of a “rush” delivery. Business records often contain data which is confidential, or which poses a security risk should it fall into the wrong hands. Specify with your records management firm which individuals will be granted access to which records. Assign only the most trustworthy people to handle your records.

4)Track and manage your records inventory. Your records management facility should give you an inventory of all the items stored in the off-site warehouse. Recently, some of the better records management facilities have begun to offer online web tools – computer programs to track, inventory, and access your records instantly.

5) Stay in contact. with your records management company. Some documents need to be stored for several years, and some items, like xrays and medical records - need to be stored for a lifetime. For security and peace of mind, contact your records management firm periodically to keep up with the latest developments.

Contact us for all your records management, document storage, shredding and scanning needs.

What to look for in a records management company

Professionalism - Always seek a trustworthy professional to look after your documents. One of the major benefits of off-site document management, after all, is security. Certain documents need to be stored for a long time - several years or even a lifetime in some cases. Get to know your records management firm. The lowest bidder for the job may not always be the best choice. Look for a trustworthy, competitive firm offering the best services for your budget.

Certification -There are a number of certifications within the document management field. Look for firms with one or more of the following:

Professional training courses and certifications

Certified Records Manager (CRM) credential

Facility - A perspective record storage facility should be clean, orderly, and well-kept. The building itself should be sturdy, in good repair, and have a security system installed. If your town has a "bad part of town", consider storing your documents at a facility in the good part of town. Your documents may be stored for some time, so don't be afraid to stop by and inspect the warehouse prior to storing your documents off-site. They are your documents, after all. You are paying for your documents’ safe keeping. An honest, professional document management facility will have nothing to hide.

Accessibility - A good record management firm will know exactly where your documents are, and be able to deliver them to your business in a timely manner. After all, what good is keeping records if you cannot access them when needed? Most good record management firms will be able to deliver stored files to your office the next day. Sometimes, however, the next day isn't quite fast enough. Ideally, records management firms should also be able to ship out items on an "urgent" basis. Depending on the distance between your office and your off-site record storage facility, certain storage firms may be able to do this very fast. The best record management firms may even be able to have your records delivered to your office in just a few hours if necessary. Incredible!

Management Tools - Any good records management firm will maintain an inventory of your files stored off-site. Ideally, a records management firm will have an online system where you can track and manage your records over the internet. These systems are able to track in real time, giving the user unprecedented access to his files. Couple this advanced management software with a prompt delivery service, and you will truly find yourself in archive heaven!

Corporate Storage Services can help with all your records management, document storage, certified shredding and scanning needs.

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