Solicitors, accountants, engineers, health authorities, insurance brokers – Many SME’s and large companies have one thing in common; the need to store quantities of business documents and archive records. These records are the life blood of your business and they need to be managed effectively to ensure smooth business operations, compliance with regulations and the avoidance of penalties. You are in fact considered a “data controller” if you are handling personal data from clients in order to perform business activities, with this status comes responsibilities and you must comply with some stringent regulations. So, does your business take data management and document storage seriously?
Vital for keeping your company organised, and legal, it is necessary to ensure you are on top of your record keeping and ensure that you have all documentation needed and never misplace anything that you are required, by law to keep. It is perhaps even more important for home based businesses to manage their documents effectively as they are likely to have less storage options and time available to manage and organise these documents.
Here are some helpful tips highlighting how best to manage your business documents effectively.
First things first – Ensure that the information you do possess is information you have permission to own. Ensure you have gained permission from the individual you are gaining information from, and be honest. Plus, don’t ask for excessive information from your clients, this may annoy them and you are not within your rights to ask for irrelevant information.
Do not keep for longer than necessary – Destroy outdated information to avoid leakage. At regular intervals, put aside time to go through your records to ensure that anything that you are no longer required to keep is destroyed.
Regularly in the news are headlines regarding leaked information and the damage it can cause to individuals and businesses – regulators have imposed more stringent duties on companies regarding proper management of personal data and records to avoid future mishaps. There is lots of advice about how to dispose of documents once you do not need them anymore but it depends on the type of data you keep to the levels of destruction you must go to, to ensure no one ever gets their hands on them in future. From non-sensitive data to top secret information the methods of destruction differ.
Security – If you are running a business from your home are your business documents locked away? It is important to consider how much contact the data will have with other people – it is a sad fact that most cases of fraud come from employees taking advantage of sensitive data. Can your employees be trusted and do you have deterrents in place to avoid this happening?
Ease of Access – Depending on the type of business you operate it is likely that you will require access to your business documents at regular occasions, so they must be locked away safely but not to the extent you cannot get to them. Create clever filing systems and labels document storage boxes clearly.
So, if you are a business storing your business documents on-site consider this information carefully and ensure your business documents are secure. Monitor access to them and implement a well organised and effective filing system. Create the correct conditions for the documents to be preserved, ensure they do not fade in direct sun light (the condition of paper will drastically change over the course of a year). Ensure your office does not pose a fire risk to ensure your business does not go up in flames. Ensure you can retrieve the documents easily should you need them.
Practice proper document destruction when the files come to the end of their life (usually after a minimum of 6 years). Remove the risk of hacking from your business and make your life easer so you can find other information more easily. If you are unable to manage your business documents due to lack of time or storage options there are specialist document storage companies that would allow you to outsource this task. These measures are critical to protect the past and future of your business so ensure you take your business document storage and archiving seriously.