Offsite Document Storage Best Practices
An overview of five key Offsite Document Storage actions you should be taking.
As your organisation expands, it will also see an increase in the volumes of records it creates, retains, and acquires. Offsite document storage represents one way of effectively managing these records. There are however a few best practices to follow in order to get the most out of your chosen offsite document storage solution.
Offsite Storage Policies & Procedures
As part of your Records Management Programme, you should have outlined policies and procedures regarding the offsite storage of your records. As with any other area of records management, these policies, and procedures need to be carefully thought out, and made known to all who will be responsible for ensuring compliance.
Among other things, your storage policies should include the actions to be carried out regarding offsite document storage. They should also include roles and designate responsibility for these actions.
The policies and procedures you lay down will form the foundation for every other aspect of storing your records offsite, from your Retention Schedule through indexing and access control, accountability, and to eventual destruction.
The Retention Policy & Schedule
Before sending your records to an offsite document storage facility it is vital to understand what records you are sending offsite.
To do this you need to create a Retention Schedule. A Retention Schedule covers all your organisation’s records across every department and division. It also covers paper and electronic records.
A good Retention Schedule can help you reduce the costs of offsite document storage, as you will know which records need to be stored and for how long. Records that can be disposed of can be sent to a secure document shredding facility, while the remaining records are stored until needed or until they too can be safely destroyed.
As records management laws and regulations become more numerous, and the penalties for non-compliance increase, it is important to have a sound Retention Policy. However having a good Retention Policy is useless unless it is applied consistently along with your Retention Schedule.
Indexing & Access Control
Without proper indexing of your records, you are creating a dangerous situation where they can disappear. Likewise, without proper access control you are leaving the gates of the fortress unbarred and unguarded and who knows who will slip through and access your organisation’s records.
Offsite document storage represents a more efficient way to manage your records when they have been intelligently indexing using appropriate keywords and descriptions. Well indexed records can be swiftly located and retrieved when needed, thus reducing time wastage and saving you money.
Your offsite storage policy should contain not only an access list of persons or designations but also the procedures they are required to follow in order to access your offsite records.
It is also important to make sure the access list is checked and updated regularly. Persons and designations are subject to change and keeping someone on the access list when they are no longer employed in your organisation is a security outpoint.
Applying this policy consistently and strictly will ensure a high degree of safety when it comes to your records.
Accountability & Key Performance Indicators
At the end of the day, someone has to be accountable for actions taken or not taken.
When it comes to offsite document storage, you need to be able to check compliance with policy and procedures. In order to determine compliance, you must have accountability at both organisation level and divisional level.
Key Performance Indicators such as speed of retrieval, retention schedule accuracy, and other KPIs that you might wish to track allow for auditing in order to ensure compliance and accountability.
Destruction – the end of the life-cycle
Every record has a life cycle and at some point, in the near, or far future each record will need to be securely disposed of.
Not only does the destruction of out-dated records help manage your storage costs, but it also helps you create a good track history of proper records retention.
Consistent record destruction utilising a Retention Schedule shows good control over your records. Inconsistent or random destruction of records may be seen as suspicious and may create doubt about your organisation’s innocence or guilt should legal issues arise.
Using best practices when it comes to offsite document storage is not a luxury but a necessity. Taking the time to follow each practice will not only afford your organisation and its assets control and security, but it will also reduce many costs and improve disaster recovery.
For more info on any of the above please contact Iron Mountain today.