Shred, Scan, or Store? Records Management Basics

Shred scan or destroy documents

Managing records is a vital part of any business. Packing all your files away in boxes and storing them indefinitely might seem like the simplest way to go about it, but this can lead to big problems in terms of efficiency, security and even legality. Effective records management is all about knowing when to shred, scan or store.

Which Records Should Be Shredded?

Many documents eventually outlive their time, and keeping them longer than needed can put you at risk of a security breach and non-compliance with today’s privacy laws.

Implement a retention schedule that determines how long to keep each type of record; this schedule will combine the relevancy of the records with legal requirements. Once a time period has been established for each type of document, the only way to properly discard these documents is to destroy them through secure shredding.

Shredding is legally required for many types of documents. Examples of sensitive documents include, but are not limited to, payroll tax returns, credit memos, cancelled checks, OSHA logs, and time cards.

Which Records Should Be Scanned?

When documents are scanned, they are passed through high quality scanning equipment that converts the paper to an image for digital storage. Documents that have been scanned can be accessed by colleagues or clients in multiple locations, so long as security permissions and privacy regulations are met. This can make scanning a smart choice for “active” records that you access and share frequently.

It may be tempting to go further and scan all of your archival (or “inactive”) records, too, to go totally paperless and save space. This is not a step to be taken without planning. A secure and organized digital storage system must be in place and maintained, so files can be stored safely and accessed easily. Retention dates still apply to digital files, so you need to keep track of when they should be destroyed.

For many businesses, it is more time-and-cost-effective to store hard copy records, then use a feature called Scan on Demand when a specific file is needed. In this service, the file is located at the offsite records center, scanned, and sent via secure encrypted link.

Keep in mind that completely paperless isn’t a possibility. There are records that must be stored in hard copy form, or that must be retained separate from the electronic record as a backup. Which brings us to…

Which Records Should Be Stored in Hard Copy Form?

Even in a digital world, there are still documents that need to be stored in their hard copy form for authenticity purposes. By law, some records must be kept on file permanently, while others need to be kept for 7-10 years. These regulations can vary by state and by industry.

When stored correctly, paper documents can remain legible for over 200 years. A document requiring a physical signature clearly must be kept in hard copy format, even if you choose to scan it as a backup document. Contracts of sale, birth certificates, and social security cards are typical examples of signed documents requiring hard copy formats.

There are also crucial documents which must be filed in two separate locations as part of a disaster plan. Generally this involves scanning and retaining an electronic copy, while the hard copy is stored offsite at least 15 miles from the source. These records are subject to audit and litigation and should be destroyed by secure shredding when the retention period is up.

As you can see, records management involves a strategic combination of shredding, scanning and storage. If you’d like to save time and money by leaving it to the experts, give Stacks a call at 888-832-9443. You can also ask questions or get a quote for any of these services here.