The paperless office predicted back in the 1970’s still seems a long way off as organisations are required to store more and more documentation for legal or regulatory reasons such as privacy laws. And whilst many documents can be stored electronically for ease of management and tracking, the requirement to store the physical paper document in an archive remains.
Predictions that the computer age heralded the start of the paperless office have so far failed to materialise. Whilst many organisations, including governments, are committed to reducing the amount of paper they use and the number of documents actually printed out, the reality is that many legal documents and documents required for regulatory reasons are required in paper format and those documents need to be stored, in some cases for many, many years in order to comply with regulations. For example, in the UK the privacy laws require medical records to be securely stored until 10 years after a patient’s death.
There are also large scale paper documents such as architect’s drawings that are not easily viewed in electronic format because of their size, which will always need to be archived and stored in their original format. So the physical storage of documents will continue to be a necessity for the foreseeable future. Storing large numbers of documents often requires a document management system (DMS) in order to ensure the documents are properly filed and can be easily retrieved when required. Many document management systems will scan the documents in order to make them more easily trackable and so that an electronic copy can be supplied, where appropriate, to preserve the original paper version.
Whilst certain types of document can be stored electronically, there are security risks in the electronic storage of data so when it comes to highly confidential information many organisations still prefer the storage of a physical document in a secure storage facility.
Some companies do not consider document storage and management as a core activity but ensuring secure storage of sensitive or regulatory documents is a vital element in maintaining the reputation of the company. No company wants confidential information released into the public domain – something that is much easier to do now in the age of social media.
One of the difficulties for a large corporation in creating a secure reliable document archiving system is that different departments within the corporation have often developed their own system of tracking and filing documentation. This effort is regularly duplicated as each department seeks to ensure they are compliant with regulations and laws. To try and bring all the disparate methods together into a single method for document storage and retrieval will usually require the dedicated full time effort of a number of people or a specialist external company, depending on the scale of information to be organised.
One of the advantages to using a specialist document archiving and management company is that the organisation will only pay for the physical or electronic storage space that they are using at any particular time. This can be very cost effective as storage requirements can be reduced or expanded as required or as necessary if there are budget constraints. It also avoids any future costs associated with hosting DMS software or upgrading scanning equipment.
Organisations of all types and sizes need to store their documentation from the small company that uses their local self-storage facility as a more cost effective solution to using expensive office space, to large corporations that manage and track their documentation in secure purpose designed document archiving facilities.