Are you struggling to manage your old paper files? I have worked with several businesses who have accumulated over the years several hundred boxes of business records. The businesses would periodically pull paper files not currently needed and place them into file boxes. They store the boxes in a storage location: maybe in a less used storage room or in a self-storage facility. Over time issues begin to develop.
Allowing your employees to send files to storage without a formal procedure is risky. The quality of the contents, their arrangement and whether they create an inventory list can vary according to the employee. This can cause the business to lose control over the business records.
Don’t let your storage become a mystery. Before sending files to your storage area, employees should inventory the files. The inventory can be as simple as a spreadsheet that lists:
The inventory will allow you to know what information you have and in which box the information is located. The inventory can also help the business track how long the records need to be kept. Boxes should not be sent to storage unless they are entered on the official business inventory list. The inventory list helps the business control the file boxes.
Be sure to develop a procedure to track files as they get checked out and returned. When an employee needs access to a file in storage, be sure to record the employee’s name and the folder or box checked out to the employee. This tracking builds accountability with the employee and is an audit trail of a file’s circulation.
Your paper business files should be stored in a secure and environmentally safe location. Otherwise, your business files can become yellow and brittle from temperature changes. Or, they can become damaged from improper storage or weather related water damage. If you are storing your boxes onsite in a storage room, be sure that the room is restricted to only those who should have access to the files. The room should have a similar temperature as the rest of your office and not be at risk of the weather. If you are storing your boxes offsite, the same safety and temperature requirements apply. Consider using an official offsite storage vendor where you can rent just enough space as needed vs a self-storage unit that can require the rental of large unused units and less security.
The more file boxes you retain, the more storage costs will increase over time. It does not need to be this way. All business records do not need to be retained permanently. Business records that have met their legal and operational retention requirements, and hold no historical significance, should be destroyed on a regular basis. Be sure to develop a records retention schedule that lists the types of records your business keeps, how long they need to be kept and how their retention period is calculated. For example, you may have a Record Type called Purchase Orders that is kept 5 years from the order date. So, Purchase Orders from 2015 can be destroyed in the year 2020.
Create an inventory spreadsheet like above, or contact us to get your free box inventory spreadsheet. Begin using your inventory spreadsheet today to keep track of your business information.
Nitza Medina-Garcia, Certified Records Manager, Records and Information Management Consultant
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