In today’s day and age, many companies have converted to electronic or paperless systems, however, businesses still have old paper records that need to be retained and accessed. Despite this move to electronic records systems, the task of determining how and where to store these old or inactive records is not new to businesses. Keeping and managing inactive records can be costly and time-consuming, and oftentimes where an organization stores these records is a big consideration and can be a hassle.
First, let’s define what an inactive record is. Inactive records are records that are not used by an organization on a day-to-day basis but must be retained for administrative purposes, legal compliance or per an organization’s records retention policy. Whether these inactive records are to be retained permanently or are nearing the end of their lifecycle, they must still be part of the business’s records management program. It is important to establish a policy for inactive records that defines when a record becomes inactive and where these records are to be stored.
After a record has been categorized as inactive, it is time to consider where to store the record – onsite or offsite. Both of these storage options have their pros and cons. One of the advantages to storing records onsite is that they are readily available without having to leave the building, however, storing records onsite can be cumbersome. Onsite storage takes up a large amount of valuable office space and requires a great deal of time for employees to manage. Organization of the records is up to the company and oftentimes multiple people have access to the records which can make maintaining the organization of them challenging. Files can be misplaced, damaged, inadvertently destroyed or lost. Onsite storage can also become a security risk if the records are not stored in an area that has controlled access. Old or inactive records may be thrown into basements, storerooms or self-storage facilities simply because onsite storage shelves and cabinets are overflowing. These records are sometimes forgotten when put into basements or self-storage type facilities, leaving them vulnerable to break-ins due to a lack of security or damaged (i.e. insects, light, humidity, flooding, etc.) for long periods of time that may render them unsalvageable.
Commercial offsite storage facilities are typically located in close proximity to the organization and allow businesses to maximize their office space. These facilities have increased security, including access control, and protection from damage that might occur in an office. One concern for moving records to an offsite commercial facility is document retrieval and accessibility. Retrieval of records must be coordinated with the storage facility and usually involves retrieval and/or courier fees. It is important to factor in these costs along with the monthly storage fees when planning your budget. In terms of accessibility, use of a document tracking system, such as file indexing, for records moved to offsite storage ensures that a business will always know where their records are and decreases the likelihood of lost or misplaced records.
So, when was the last time your business reviewed its policy for managing inactive records? Kickstarting the New Year with a fresh look at your company’s inactive records management policy might be just the ticket you need to give your business peace of mind knowing that its records are accessible, safe and secure. For suggestions or tips on how to manage your company’s inactive records, contact Zasio.
Disclaimer: The purpose of this post is to provide general education on Information Governance topics. The statements are informational only and do not constitute legal advice. If you have specific questions regarding the application of the law to your business activities, you should seek the advice of your legal counsel.