Paper documents are sensitive both to regulations and to physical elements. Therefore, it is important to store them properly and have a reliable document management system.
In this article we cover everything you need to make sure your documents are stored safely and properly.
Choose a secure facility
Choose a storage facility that is alarmed, has a surveillance system and entry protocols. This will make sure your documents are safe. If you need regular access to your documents, choose a storage facility that is close to the office.
If keeping your documents clean and crisp is important, consider paying for humidity control and temperature control. These will help ensure that the paperwork does not become damp and susceptible to mould, mildew, and other forms of damage.
Only store what you need to
Research the regulations and legislation that governs document storage. Note that there may be different requirements depending on the nature of the document such as tax documents, case files, etc. Keep only what you need to and shred the rest.
You may also have duplicates of documents. Shred these and only keep what you need.
Use archive boxes or plastic boxes
Buy archive boxes or waterproof plastic boxes to store your documents. Older documents can be taken out of arch file levers and concertina folders and put straight into boxes.
Since you probably won’t be needing old documents, there is no need to have such a detailed classification system or folders and files taking up space. You can then use fewer boxes to pack more paperwork.
Pack and label your boxes
Seal your documents in waterproof bags or boxes. Put a layer of crumpled butcher paper at the bottom as a cushion base and put filling between documents such as shredded paper or small packing peanuts.
While it’s important to get a good seal around your boxes to ensure no water gets in, don’t put too many documents in either. Overfilling your boxes will lead to crumpling and wrinkling when you try to close the boxes.
Label your boxes according to your document management system. Older documents may only need a box code, dates, and document types. Newer documents that need to be accessed are likely to require more information such as surnames of clients.
Maintain an organised document management system
Plan your document management system well before putting your documents into boxes. Designate document and box codes and identifiers.
If you’re scanning documents, ensure you have a good system to store them either through a cloud management system or in a shareable drive. Keep an accurate, detailed master list of boxes with their contents and save it somewhere secure with access restricted as required.
When the boxes are packed into the self-storage unit, ensure the boxes with the oldest documents are stored at the back and the documents that have to be accessed frequently are at the front.
Make sure you leave space for an aisle so that employees can still access the boxes at the back. This will come in handy when it’s time to dispose of these boxes or in case an old file needs to be retrieved.
Designate employee access
Decide which employees will have access to soft copies and the master list for the documents as well as access to the self-storage unit. You can then restrict access using passwords, access codes and letting your storage facility know which employees are allowed to access the storage unit, if any.
Of course, you can provide read-only electronic access to employees while designating only one person to have access to the original documents in their storage module or unit.
Create a log for document entries and exits
If several employees can access the storage unit/module, create a log for document entries and exits where employees must sign documents in and out. This is a good safety protocol to have and may come in handy later in case documents are misplaced or are missing.
Have a document retention policy
Now that you have a system to identify and code document types it should be easy to apply a document retention policy. Research how long you must keep documents for. This will vary depending on the content of the document, some documents should never be destroyed, others must be kept for at least 5 years.
Make sure the documents are classified properly so their destruction date is correct. Ensure that older documents are grouped according to when they can be disposed of.
Make a note (electronically and on the box itself) when the documents contained can be shredded and enter the dates on the master list.
If you need any more information on document storage don’t hesitate to contact us.