Records vs Documents: The Differences & How Best to Manage Them

Records and Documents

Records and documents are actually classified differently in the professional space. Understanding their differences and the best ways to manage them will go a long way in keeping your business organized and secure.

Video Transcription

Document vs Record Definitions


A document refers to “live” information that has not been made final. In short, documents are a work in progress and can still be added to, edited, and updated.

Because they can still change, documents don’t necessarily have to adhere to specific industry regulations until they are final.


Records are considered a final and official file. Because of their finality, records cannot be edited or recreated and are now also subject to legal requirements.

Since they can’t be recreated, records should have some form of backup system where they can be stored with maximum security.

Document and Record Examples


  • Business plans
  • Control plans
  • Process maps
  • Organization charts
  • Internal audit schedules
  • Procedures and work instructions
  • Approved supplier lists
  • Purchasing criteria
  • Customer requirements documents
  • Quality policy and objectives manual


  • Accounting source files
  • Employment contracts
  • Education, training, skills, and experience records
  • Financial statements
  • Internal audit reports
  • Invoices
  • Legal correspondence
  • OSHA logs
  • Personnel records
  • Payroll records

Document vs Record Management Solutions

Document Management Systems

Documents are active files and need to be readily available, up to date, and easy to distribute.

With a growing paperless trend in business, document management system (DMS) software is becoming a common solution for streamlining how regularly used documents are managed.

Offsite Records Storage

Records are used for occasional reference and are primarily retained for legal purposes.

At an offsite facility, records are securely stored and retained and are easily-retrievable if needed. Because it’s less expensive, it’s often most cost-efficient to store rarely-used records off site instead of scanning them into a DMS.

Managing Documents

Document management systems have several requirements, including keeping documents up to date, accessible, legible, and able to be distributed easily.

To help simplify this, DMS software includes multiple features to accommodate document management needs such as:

  • Version control: Files used and edited in a system are always up to date and if necessary, past version histories can be restored
  • Electronic accessibility: Storing documents in a centralized DMS system functions like a digital filing cabinet, but unlike hard-copies keyword search is used to find files faster and they don’t need refiling
  • Document organization: Documents are indexed and organized upon entry to a DMS, making them easier to track down while also reducing the odds of important documents being lost or misfiled

Managing Records

Managing records also requires several key components including compliance with laws regulating the storage and retention period for records, keeping them secure and protected, and also ensuring they’re labeled and identifiable for retrieval if necessary.

Storing records off site can meet all those goals in addition to saving money on not scanning, with facility features including:

  • Barcode Labeling & Tracking: As they’re stored record boxes are marked with a barcode label which is used for retrieval and to track the location of records and their retention times
  • 24/7 Monitoring & Climate-Controls: To protect records and the facilities as well as they’re equipped with video surveillance monitoring and temperature regulation and fire-supressant systems
  • Shredding On Site: When the retention periods for stored records expire, offsite storage facilities have industrial shredders on site to handle destroying the obsolete records

Have a Strategy for Document and Record Management?

Learn more about records and document differences and find DMS, offsite storage, and other strategies for managing your information by visiting us at Record Nations today.

To get your free, no-obligation quotes for your business, give us a call at (866) 385-3706 or fill out the form on the right.

Get a FREE Quote!