In a time when digitization is being hailed as the solution to every business’s document storage needs, it may seem that hard-copy document storage services have become obsolete. But there is still a place for boxed physical documents in the digital age.
Paperwork remains an essential part of management and administration, but the accumulation of data that businesses must keep to hand for administrative as well as regulatory reasons, can cause problems.
It’s the principal reason electronically storing data relating to employees, customers and agents has become so popular. Electronic data storage overcomes many challenges, not least data size, accessibility and convenience.
But it has some limitations which hard copy document storage services do not, highlighting the advantages that the more traditional storage option delivers.
Although digital storage offers much greater convenience, hacking means it does not necessarily provide greater security than hard-copy document storage services do. Data breaches are a common problem. In fact, according to a report on the 2017 Breach Level Index, there were almost 2 billion records breached in the first 6 months of 2017, in 918 individual incidents worldwide. Document storage services face no such risks. The data can only be accessed if an individual with official clearance enters that space; no one can sneak in and steal unnoticed.
In sectors that gather highly sensitive data, like law, finance, and medicine, there are strict regulations relating to data and document retention. For example, both the Revenue Commissioners in Ireland and the HMRC in the UK require businesses to retain records and documents for a minimum of 6 years. In some industries, data must be retained for much longer. In many cases, there is a legal requirement for documents to have handwritten signatures, not digital signatures. So, paper documents storage services is the most practical option.
For businesses that require access to files on a frequent basis, hard-copy storage is ideal. You can also customize the access procedure, establishing a method that ensures maximum security by drawing up a shortlist of those entitled to access. Alternatively, because documents are carefully categorized and archived, files can be retrieved and sent to the client too.
For large companies that generate mountains of files, electronic data storage makes a lot of sense. But for small or medium-sized businesses, the electronic road may not make financial sense. After all, the expense of scanning every document is proportionately cost effective. This means that storing physical files in a secure space may be the best idea, with regular fixed payments easy to budget for.
The GDPR, which is set to come into effect in May this year, sets out clear rules relating to the retention and destruction of personal data (Right to be Forgotten), regardless what form that data is stored in. Responsibility to properly erase data falls on the business, but it’s not always easy. Electronic data can be stored in multiple locations – laptops, phones, email accounts or even on social media – so, even when erasure seems to have been done, a skilled hacker may be able to find the documents. Paper documents, however, are physically shredded and completely destroyed, making it impossible for anyone to ‘find’ it elsewhere. It means that satisfying the regulations set so strictly by the EU legislation is much easier.