Records Retention Policy: Store vs. Shred
Today’s agile business environment advances quickly, creating more information each day, often in new formats that weren’t around a few years ago. And as more data accumulates, the more your company can put itself at risk of noncompliance or a potential security breach.
Establishing a Records Retention Policy
Record retention is a requirement underneath document retention laws and a vital component of controlling an organization’s information. One of the most effective ways a company can manage recordkeeping requirements is by creating a records retention policy. By implementing this type of plan, a company can mitigate risk and comply with stringent federal and state regulations.
Several factors go into developing an effective retention policy to help govern documents throughout their lifespan. Not only must an organization be mindful of how long you store documents, but you must be attentive to document destruction guidelines. Before deciding the fate of a record, you will need to confirm with all your departments that there is no regulatory or legal hold on the data. Although a document may appear to be obsolete, the premature disposition of any material with legal hold could result in costly fines or penalties.
The Importance of Records Retention
Retaining all of your company’s files and records may seem like a safe bet to prevent data loss and ensure business continuity. However, if your business adopts a “save all” approach to sensitive information, your private company, employee, and client information may be at risk.
An IBM study revealed that the average cost of a data breach is almost $8 million in the U.S. Furthermore, as the number of compromised records increases, the overall financial impact to a company can be fatal with 60% of businesses closing six months after suffering a breach. By taking a proactive approach to records retention and defensible disposition, your company can minimize its risk of breach and safely control its volume of information.
Lastly, retaining unneeded documents consumes valuable company resources, such as prime office real estate and employee time. The time that employees spend compiling records for storage and filing/refiling them can be tremendous. With each additional file, the cost of storage increases as filing cabinets overtake your office. And when it comes time to shred documents that are past their retention date, it can be a long, tedious process. Not only does over-retention slow business processes down, but it also consumes your budget and opportunity to advance.
Store vs. Shred?
How long you store sensitive business records is established by a records retention schedule that takes into account the usefulness of each file and its legal requirements. By implementing a clearly defined records retention policy that accounts for your business type, industry, and lifecycle of specific documents, you’ll be better equipped to execute a disposition program properly.
When creating a long-term records management strategy, conduct an information audit for an overview of the types of records each department uses. By classifying information into a records retention schedule that accounts for all record types, your information will be easy to identify and prioritize. Additionally, consider forming an information governance committee with representatives from each department – from IT, management, HR, legal, to compliance. They can help identify different record types, document usage frequency, and the appropriate amount of time to save particular documents so that adequate retention periods can be determined.
As with any policy, always consult with an attorney before developing a records retention policy. Federal/state laws and retention guidelines will also define your retention periods. For example, with tax records retention, most businesses can eliminate tax records after seven years. Depending on your industry, you may be enabled to dispose of paper files after you make digital copies. Then that electronic data can be destroyed after seven years.
Secure Storage of Records
For physical documents that require retention, consider using secure offsite storage services to free up valuable office space. With a professional storage provider, your confidential documents are safeguarded in a climate-controlled facility to protect against humidity and climate variations to preserve your critical business assets. Also, a secure storage facility protects your files from exposed risk or premature disposition with state-of-the-art security systems, fire suppression systems, and rigorous access controls.
To protect backup tapes, disks, microfilm, microfiche, and other hard media, use a provider with offsite media vaults to back up critical business information in a safe, secure environment so you can operate seamlessly if an unexpected disaster occurs.
Secure Disposition of Documents
For information no longer necessary for any business or legal reasons, you will need to destroy it securely. To purge sensitive documents compliantly, opt to use NAID AAA certified shredding services with chain-of-custody procedures and security protocols.
When looking for a shredding provider, find one that offers a variety of destruction options to meet your business needs best. With onsite shredding services, no documents leave your facility and are shredded onsite by mobile shredding trucks. Reoccurring plant-based shredding services place locked shred consoles at your office and routinely pick them up to destroy and recycle shredding materials offsite. For hard drives, disks, and other electronic records, use media destruction services to destroy them beyond recognition defensibly.
Finding the Right Storage and Shredding Partner
If you’ve ever outsourced business processes, you may be aware that it can help streamline operations and improve workflow for your company. By applying this same concept to outsourced storage and destruction procedures, your business will experience the benefits of enhanced compliance, security, and efficiency. At Vital Records Control, we take into account all your records retention and disposition needs, customizing a records management solution that’s right for your business.
Want to learn more? Our information governance specialists are here to help. Contact us for a free quote.