Know the location of your data
Do you know what data is located where?
Record Management disasters do happen. Being properly prepared could mean the difference between a company closing disaster and a minor inconvenience disaster. The choice is yours.
If someone asked you for your client contracts or bank statements would you be able to find them instantly without hesitation, or would you have to think about it and go searching for them?
Avoiding or recovering from a record management disaster relies among other things on you knowing what documents and records are kept where. Depending on your business size, you might have documents located in one place or many places. Either way as long as you know exactly what documents are kept where you are already a step ahead of many companies.
If however you are one of those who cannot easily locate your documents, then you really do need to take a few steps to remedy the situation.
Know your documents
In order to keep track of both your paper and electronic documents you first need to understand what type of documents and data you have. This means carrying out an audit in order to classify and describe each document type.
Along with classifying and describing each document type, you should also assess who uses each document, who needs access to it and who does not and how often does the document get used. Additionally, it is important to know if it has any legal implications.
Once you have gotten to know your documents, it is time to work out and assess where they should be stored.
Storing your documents and data
Where you store your documents and data can have huge implications on your disaster readiness and recovery. Storing legal documents such as bank statements, client contracts, your customers’ personal information, and other sensitive information in cardboard boxes in a dark, damp basement is definitely not a good idea. Likewise, storing ‘template’ documents on a hard drive and locking it in a safe is not the smartest option if you want to keep your organisation running smoothly.
It is important to match the storage space with the data or documents being stored. For example, legal documents that must be retained for a certain number of years but are seldom accessed are probably best stored using a secure offsite storage solution. Template files however may be better stored in either a local server or an offsite server with access control.
If you plan to store paper files on your own premises then doing the following as a good idea:
- Access the size of the storage area in relation to the documents needing to be stored. If the space is too big then you are losing money. If the only just holds all your documents then you are probably not going to be able to access your documents and you will need to find an additional space somewhere.
- What is the climate of your storage space? Damp spaces will encourage mould and besides the health risks water will damage paper documents, even ones in steel cabinets.
- Does the space have adequate ventilation? Some ventilation is good but you do not want unsecured windows that could be a security risk or holes that pests could use to enter the room.
- Is the storage space located where access is relatively easy?
- Could the space be better utilised for other purposes?
A similar check should be carried out for electronic data storage depending on whether you plan to use servers or simply keep the data on a number of PCs.
The all-important lists
Once you know what data and documents you have and have worked out the storage locations it is time to create lists detailing everything. Your lists should include:
- descriptions of your data and documents
- describe what is located offsite (paper & electronic)
- describe what is located onsite (paper & electronic)
- include who has access to which documents and data
- include the documents legal status (retention periods etc.)
- who is responsible for your data and documents
Lastly, make sure your lists are stored properly and accessible to those who need them.
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