Records storage has always been considered as interesting as white paint drying. But the rise in privacy concerns and the resulting laws have made records storage a priority for every company. One misstep can cost a company it’s very existence. Just ask Morgan Stanley, which settled with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for a record $15 million for failing to properly produce e-mails related to an investigation.
Upon hearing about the Morgan Stanley case, many companies implemented a records management policy of saving everything indefinitely or hiring records scanning services to scan everything. But that raises a whole new set of landmines. Retaining records beyond their usefulness can expose businesses to litigation risks.
In the world of records storage you are always walking a fine line between retaining the wrong information and destroying required documents. While it would be foolish to think we can tell you the solution in a short article, there are a few things to get you started on the right track. If you want the easy way just fill out a records storage request and we can walk you through the whole records storage and backup process.
What Is a Record?
The first step in any records storage program is classifying what is a record. A record can be defined as information that is stored for a set period of time, either for regulatory, legal or business reasons. It is easy to determine what you need for business reasons but what about legal or regulatory reasons? This is information that businesses must know.
Where Are All the Records?
Some records, like corporate filings are easy to find. But what about all the records that employees store in their desks? It is these secondary records that prove most problematic during litigation. Remember Erin Brokovich? She won with the help of a disgruntled employee who failed to shred the documents in his care. The same fate hit the cigarette makers ten years later. Any records storage program should account for secondary records.
With more records going online, e-mail and instant messages (IMs) are also subject to proper record retention guidelines. Just ask Speaker Hastert if it is important to properly manage these documents.
How Long Do You Retain a Record?
If you think your lawyer, or anybody else, is going to give you a short list of all your records retention periods, you will be waiting a long time. Consider for a moment whom has jurisdiction over your records. Public companies have the SEC with its myriad of reporting and retention requirements including the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Then you have the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services just to name a few regulatory agencies with different record retention requirements.
Now add on state and local regulatory agencies where you are doing business. Don’t forget about any law enforcement requirements that may apply to your business or its employees. You end up with a records storage policy that can’t be printed on just one page.
How Fast Can You Find a Record?
Once you have organized your business records and have set up their retention schedules, you can rest easy, right? Wrong. Government regulators also require that you be able to find a requested record in a timely manner. It is often assumed that companies who can’t produce the required information are guilty of the accusations. Worse yet, you can be found in contempt of court for not producing required information in a reasonable period of time. This is where records scanning services are useful. Scanning makes your records easier to store and keep track of, as does records storage and backup. In some cases record storage takes place off-site and advanced notice may be necessary for retrieval. Backing up records will help to ensure that digital information is not loss in the event of a computer crash or corrupt data.
How Do You Dispose of Expired Records?
When the records are considered “public information” they can simply be thrown away. But for confidential business information or anything containing personal data, the records must be properly destroyed. For paper records this means a one-way trip to the shredder. However, it’s important not to forget to destroy all the information stored on magnetic media and hard drives. These should be shredded or degaussed.
Get Free Quotes on Records Storage Services Near You!
Do you need a better way to store your documents? If you have stacks of paperwork that are piling up and taking up too much space, call us today at (866) 385-3706 or fill out the form on the right for free quotes. Our professionals know the best techniques for records storage and records scanning.