When you hear the word 'archiving', you may take a deep sigh and inwardly roll your eyes with frustration. Whilst the processing of archiving your paper documentation can be quite a dry subject to discuss, it is actually of critical importance for your business that you manage your archive documents in the right way that complies with current Data Protection Act rules and regulations.
Sorting out and streamlining your business archive documents is one of those necessary tasks that you will often keep putting off. However, at some point, your archived documents will reach the end of their useful life and will need to be securely disposed of.
Don't overlook your data security duties
While good records management and document archiving are critical tasks for your business, they can often be overlooked for more pressing and immediate daily tasks. But even small businesses and solo entrepreneurs will have very sensitive paperwork that needs to be properly managed and stored securely to protect the valuable data the documents contain.
Depending on what type of business sector you work in, you may also need to keep a precise set of records for legal reasons for a set period. These can include keeping customer data, financial information and supplier details each with varying durations before they need to be securely destroyed.
All UK businesses must store and preserve certain important business records and financial accounts and be able to present these to HMRC on request.
VAT registered companies must keep a full set of records and accounts and if you are an import/export business, you must declare any goods you move and keep appropriate records.
According to HMRC guidance: 'Sales and purchase records must be kept so that HMRC inspectors can check that VAT-registered businesses have paid the correct VAT on traded goods. These records should include annual accounts, cash books, orders and delivery notes, credit and debit notes, purchase invoices and copy sales invoices and any relevant correspondence.'
Why do I need a document management system?
Running an efficient document management system can help to ensure you remain compliant and don't fall foul of any data protection regulations and suffer any severe financial penalties as a result.
An effective document management system is one with an organised approach to how your different business documents are filed, where they are kept and how well they are secured.
For example, once you have generated the necessary paperwork you need to process a business transaction, whether that be a sale to a customer, an order from a supplier or business partner; you will need to file and store that paperwork in a secure manner to protect the sensitive information it will contain, such as a customer’s name and address, bank account numbers and credit card details.
However, due to GDPR regulations, you are only allowed to keep sensitive customer information for a very short time, for example, while they are still needed by your company to process the customer’s order.
Unless the customer has signed up for a repeat purchase, you will have no need to keep their personal data on record and need to securely dispose of it. However, you may need to keep your business transactions with a supplier or business partner longer for tax reasons.
If HMRC decides to audit your company, you will need to allow them access to your business documentation for auditing purposes. In these cases, you may need to keep this paperwork for much longer than you would keep other business-related paperwork.
Secure your archive documents
When we talk about document archiving, we mean the process of putting your business paper documentation into storage. These documents are the ones that you don't necessarily need to use daily, but still need to be kept safe for many reasons.
These reasons can include:
· Keeping the documents for tax reasons
· Retaining a record of your business transactions
· To meet legal requirements on document retention
While it is all well and good to keep a set of filing cabinets in your office where you can file your business paperwork, at some point these filing cabinets will become full.
If you don't have the capacity or available space to install more filing cabinets to manage your overflowing paperwork, then you could be putting your company at great risk.
It is not good enough to casually throw paper files into cupboards or office desk draws if you can no longer make space in your filing cabinets for them. Leaving confidential paperwork unsecured in this manner opens your company to potential data breaches and therefore become the source for business fraud and ID theft.
What is a document management system?
A document management system is an organised approach to your business paperwork filing, storing and archiving. To keep your documents well managed you should look at putting these suggestions into practice:
· Create a set of company policies and guidelines around document organisation, storage and archiving for your staff to follow
· Make use of a trusted third-party document management service, such as Restore Records Management, that handle business document storage and archiving on behalf of your business
Your business document archiving is very important because it allows you to safely store and organise your business-critical paperwork without it spiralling out of control and becoming too overwhelming to manage.
A properly managed document management system paired with secure off-site storage for your archive documents will allow you and your staff to quickly and easily locate and access the documents you need, while at the same time helping your company meet its requirements around business documentation retention.
What about unique and valuable documentation?
All business paperwork is valuable to a certain degree. Your important documents such as VAT returns, ledgers, bank account statements and your HR information will need to be kept for several years for legal reasons. But these are documents that you may not need to access on a regular basis.
In these cases, you should look at storing these documents off-site in a secure location that can provide round the clock protection from risks such as theft, fire and flood. You can do this through using a service such as our secure off-site storage facilities.
The security of these documents is paramount for your business. If you don't organise and securely store this paperwork properly it will make you vulnerable to loss and theft of sensitive data.
However, if you are in possession of some rare and irreplaceable business-related documents, then it would make sense to look at protecting them for posterity. For example, if you run a very old business that has been in existence for hundreds of years, you may have some historical documents from the time the business was founded, such as original company formation documents, building deeds etc.
For one-off pieces such as these, you could look at either our Heritage Storage services or our Ultra-secure Vault storage, which could also be home to other valuable belongings and items of historical significance to your company.
Security considerations for your archive documents
For your regular business documentation, you still need to consider the security that surrounds their safe storage and long-term protection. There are several considerations to take on board, including:
· Data protection laws and GDPR for protecting customer information
· Protecting the personal information of your employees
· Protecting the financial details of your company
· Security surrounding research and development of new products or practices related to your business
These protections are particularly important for businesses that work in medical, pharmaceutical, health care, or financial services, such as banks and insurance services, that must follow specific industry-related regulations around data privacy for those sectors.
Although it is almost unthinkable, in a lot of businesses, data theft by employees can be an issue. Even the longest serving employees have been known to fall prey to threats from criminals to get hold of valuable sensitive information.
Many confidential R&D files have fallen into the wrong hands in this way.
By moving your archive documents off-site into secured and monitored storage premises, risks such as these can be greatly reduced or even become negligible because you will have very strict employee access control over your documentation.
The nuisance of your archive documents
Your physical paperwork can be quite substantial and bulky. Your paper records can take up a lot of valuable floor space within your business premises. This is why it makes a lot of sense to move your stored archive documents into secure off-site document storage facilities, such as those provided by Restore Records Management.
By relocating your archive documents to secure off-site facilities you will be able to free up a lot of valuable floor space within your business premises. When you realise that you are paying out a lot of rent on your business premises, why would you want to pay for floor space that is effectively redundant?
Your filing cabinets containing your business archive documents are effectively causing a lot of dead space that you are paying for. Instead, you could free this room up to enable you to expand your office or workspace so you make your business more productive and the extra floor space will be contributing to your bottom line instead of being a drain on it.
How Restore Records Management can help!
Restore Records Management offer secure off-site storage facilities in purpose-built warehouses located across the country. There will be a facility that is close to your business base, therefore making it easy for you to access and retrieve any of your archive documents whenever you need them again in the future.
Our secure off-site storage facilities are fully security monitored and protected 24/7, meaning that access to your company files is strictly limited to authorised personnel only. No one is allowed onto our storage facility premises without previous authorisation and a security check.
As our facilities are CCTV monitored all year round, we can protect your business documents from potential security threats from physical data theft or sabotage through arson attempts.
What Restore Records Management secure off-site storage offers:
· 100+ storage facilities, in 44 locations, across 7 UK regions
· GPS-tracked collections and deliveries from storage facilities near you
· Secure storage with 24/7 security entry systems and CCTV
· Operate to the highest industry standards and accreditations
· A stable environment with temperature and humidity control
· Deep storage for deeds, wills, financial and medical records that must, by law, be retained for many years
· Desktop control through online tracking software, which enables access at the touch of a button, audit trails and proof of an unbroken chain of custody
Secure disposal of your expired archive documents
Restore Records Management offer a complete end-to-end service when it comes to looking after your business documentation. Not only do we offer excellent document management services that take care of everything from initial uplift of archive documents to near or deep storage facilities, but we will also take good care of your documents during their active lifetime.
Once your documents reach the end of their useful life, our services don't stop there! We can also help you by conducting a fully audited destruction of your expired archive documents. This will enable you to meet your compliance needs under the current data protection act.
Once your documents have been securely destroyed you will be issued with an official certificate of destruction that details the time and date of the destruction, along with the name and signature of the supervision officer that oversees the secure destruction of your files.
If you would like more information about managing your archive documents, do not hesitate to contact our team who will be happy to recommend the best type of storage and management to suit your needs.