5 Information Storage Rules Your Business Can’t Ignore
Business owners may not slow down to think about storing company data, but doing so can prevent problems in the long run. Although the records you keep and the amount of time required to keep them vary by location and industry, information storage is mandatory for all businesses. Whether the records are business transactions, customer information, or employee information, you may be asked to produce these documents at any time.
Does your company properly store and dispose of important documents as required? If not, your records could be compromised and legal action could be taken against your business. Here are five information storage rules your business can’t ignore.
Have a Retention Plan
A retention plan, or a storage plan, is a policy you can reference in regards to which data you need to keep, how long you need to keep it and how often you need to back it up. A business may retain data to comply with federal regulations, legal discovery requirements, or to provide the organization with the ability to recover important business data in the event of a disaster. Records retention laws and requirements vary by location and the type of data, but it’s generally a minimum of three years.
The first thing to consider is how you’re going to store your data. Are your documents on computers, servers, paper, or all three? Are they in-house or offsite in a records storage facility? Is every employee responsible for storing data and are they properly trained? These are the questions that should be asked when implementing a retention plan. Also, be sure you are familiar with both federal and state laws.
Once the retention period is up, it’s crucial that documents be securely destroyed as soon as possible. You are unnecessarily putting your organization at risk of information theft and litigation if records are kept longer than needed.
Creating a retention plan should be an organizational process that will later allow you to search and access documents with ease. Working with an IT team may be necessary to archive files, backup files and delete files as seamlessly as possible.
Have a Backup Method
Backing up company data is vital to your organization. Anything can happen whether it be computer crashes, natural disasters or stolen equipment, and being able to provide certain documents at any time is the law.
When choosing a backup method, make sure it’s easy to execute frequent backups of your data. If you need to backup and restore information quickly, a disk-to-disk (D2D) system may be a good option. Using this method, a mirrored system is used to back up data and you can restore lost files if you configured the system correctly. However, depending on how much data you need to backup, D2D can be expensive due to the number of disks that may need to be used.
If your company keeps tapes, rotating them is important to your backup method. In an offsite facility, your backup tapes are stored in a data vault that protects them from fire, theft and natural disasters. Specialized barcode technology is used to monitor the tapes at all times during rotation to ensure their exact location is always known.
One thing to consider is whether or not you should store your archives online. Storing data online will always allow for easy access, but the large volume of the archived data may make online retention impractical. Also, data that is stored online may be vulnerable to hackers.
Properly Label Records
Archived data isn’t useful unless it can be located with ease. This means that you need to establish guidelines for clear and consistent labeling of your stored data. Here are a few elements used in labels:
- Levels are a ranking that refer to the sensitivity of the document, e.g., highly sensitive, sensitive, confidential, public, etc.
- Compartments are the categories associated with the content, e.g., financial, strategic, operational, etc.
- Groups are the identifiers for organizations who can access the data, e.g., eastern region, western region, etc.
However you choose to label your data, make sure it’s clear and concise and that it will be easily remembered if accessed ten years from now.
Update Data as Needed
Twenty years ago, ZIP drives were a reliable means of backup. Today, this method is outdated and impractical as technology changes and improves.
Be aware of new technology that can safely and cost-effectively store your data. It’s important to pick a data storage plan that won’t be obsolete in five years, as your data will outlast that time frame, and you will have to begin a new storage plan. Regularly review your storage needs and make adjustments as necessary.
Train All Staff
Employees handle important documents every day and they need to be familiar with the company’s retention plan.
- Clearly define what documents need to be stored and where they need to go.
- Make sure they know federal and state regulations on document retention.
- Integrate retention policies into their daily routine.
- Keep the retention plan easily accessible for reference.
- Make time for periodic training and updates.
- Send out email reminders on policy.
Onboarding employees for a new storage plan can be a long process, but it will be well worth it. If everyone is working together toward a common goal, documents will be categorized, labeled, stored and securely destroyed with ease.
Stacks offers offsite storage, secure destruction/shredding and data protection services to help keep your valuable information safe and readily accessible. Request an estimate today to get started.