Some businesses produce large volumes of paperwork that need to be stored for a fixed period of time. Effective archiving is key to ensuring your files are stored safely and secure but also accessible. While many choose to digitise to save on storage space, they then jeopardise their files by not storing them safely. For example, some small businesses often use hard drives or memory sticks to back up data but then choose to store them in a desk drawer on the premises. If the property (and any paper files) are damaged due to fire or flood, the digital files are also likely to be ruined. Here are three steps to ensuring that your archives are kept safely and efficiently.
Digital storage options
Remember that storage media won’t last forever and more modern software may not be able to read old files. Writable CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs are cheap and widely available but don’t offer a huge amount of storage space, and there is no guarantee these will be readable in ten years’ time. It’s worth remembering that hard drives have a typical lifespan of between two to eight years, depending on how they are stored, so this is only a temporary solution. You may even need to ensure that you copy data onto more up to date external drives and files on a regular basis. And you will need to find an alternative location to store hard drives away from your main premises, for example a self-storage locker or unit.
Cloud storage is becoming increasingly popular for businesses. Services such as Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and iCloud allow you to access your files from anywhere in the world and are protected against problems such a flooding. However, cloud storage can be costly and requires internet access, so if your internet goes down or you’re on the move it may be difficult to get to the files you need.
If you’re storing data digitally, make sure you:
- Make regular backups
- Make more than one copy of your archive
- Store your archives in a cool, dry place such as a self-storage locker
- Consider encrypting sensitive files
Paper storage options
You may still need to keep paper records, and these should be stored securely and handled with care. If you have confidential records, these should be kept in a room or location with controlled access. Keep your papers in good-quality archive boxes and plastic sleeves to prevent damage or deterioration. Make sure boxes are carefully labelled and indexed so you know where to find what you need quickly and easily. If you do remove any papers, make sure they are put back in the right place as soon as possible. You may also want to put a note detailing when, why and by whom papers are removed.
Documents should be kept in a room in which the temperature is stable and there is no damp. Make sure you have smoke detectors and a fire suppression system in place. If you have a large number of paper files, it may be worth storing them offsite to free up space. Some documents need to be stored for between one and seven years – or possibly even longer for legal and financial professionals – so make sure these are kept safely.
Most self storage units are temperature-controlled and extremely secure, giving you peace of mind that your paper records are safe and can be accessed as and when you need them without cluttering up the office. If you are using self storage, use filing cabinets or archive boxes to keep papers in a good condition. Make sure you stack heavy items at the bottom and lighter items at the top, and leave a walkway so that you can access all of your files. If you have any papers that do not need to be kept, get rid of them, shredding where sensitive information is involved. The less you have to store the less it will cost and it will be easier when it comes to locating files. Label boxes with dates so that you know what can be got rid of and when, and so that you can easily find files when they are needed. Avoid packing away any documents that you use on a daily basis but file as much away as you can without interfering with the running of the business.
At Space Centre Self Storage you can store documents in our secure, damp-free units. Contact us today if you would like to free up office space and ensure that your paper documents or hard drives are kept in the best possible conditions. That way, if anything happens at your headquarters, for example a break-in or fire, your backed-up files will not be destroyed. Our storage units and lockers come in a range of shapes and sizes and are protected with a high-security padlock for which only you will have keys. You can store files with us for short periods of time or long term at affordable prices. Contact us for more information.
Have you got any tips for effective archiving or backing up your data? Maybe you had that horrible moment when you plugged in your hard drive to see the dreaded message that the files have been corrupted?