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The Do’s and Don’ts

For those who have not previously used an outsourced document storage service, the prospect of relinquishing important company records can be quite daunting. After all, documents are the lifeblood of any business, however large or small! The reality is that, with a professional document management partner, you can be more in touch with the status and whereabouts of your physical records than ever before.

This is mainly because reputable document management companies use sophisticated barcode systems which track every movement of a box or file held in their storage facilities for full and accurate traceability. This enables efficient retrieval should you need your documents returned.

At the same time, it also provides a detailed audit trail in line with Data Protection and other statutory and non-statutory obligations.

Some providers offer cataloguing services to ensure that your archives are accurately indexed before the barcoding stage. This is well worth considering and can be a very beneficial exercise from the outset. If you retrieve a specific box, you need to know that the files in it are the ones you expected! Many document storage companies also sell specialist archive boxes in a variety of sizes so set-up can really be quite hassle-free.

Most document storage companies provide retrievals and collections operating a next day, same day or scheduled delivery/collection services as contractually required. If you are using a regional storage provider, some can even return physical files within two hours of your request! This gives invaluable peace of mind should you need to access your records urgently. Many also offer a scan on demand service with electronic retrieval via secure online management. This is also a useful back-up in the event of a file being needed urgently.

When your documents reach the end of their lifecycle, they will need to be securely destroyed. A storage provider with the facility to carry out secure document storage is beneficial to lifecycle management. Some provide both on and off-site shredding services. Off-site storage means that shredding can be instructed direct from storage, but always with your written authorisation. Certificates of destruction should be issued at the end of the process. Most document storage companies will ask you to sign a contract. The terms and conditions of these contracts can vary considerably so it is worth checking the small-print. Should you wish to terminate the contract, then you may incur costs.

Some companies will also offer ‘fixed rates’ for a specified period which protects you from any rate increases during that time. It is also possible to have ‘activity’ based rates or ‘inclusive’ prices. Some even offer deep storage rates, where minimal or no access is likely. Work out which one suits your business best.

Shop around too for competitive rates, but never compromise on quality and security because if information falls into the wrong hands, then it could be an extremely costly mistake.

Companies registered to ISO 9001: 2008 for example have demonstrated a high level of quality standards across all areas of its business. Some also have PD5454:2012 accreditation for the secure storage of paper records. Don’t be afraid to ask for references from current clients if you have any doubts.

Ensure that your chosen storage centre is well protected against intruders, theft or fire, and that its employees – including its drivers – are all CRB checked. Location should be a consideration and it is of course sensible to choose a storage centre in a low risk area. That is why discreet rural locations work so well. It is also advisable to be cautious of those who use agency staff or sub-contract any part of the service.

DO

  • Ensure the storage facility is fully-secure with measures in place for unauthorised access or theft.
  • Check that the storage centre has adequate fire alarms and procedures in the case of fire.
  • Choose humidity-controlled warehouses to reduce any potential paper/microfiche deterioration.
  • Ask about pest control. It sounds basic but it’s important nevertheless!
  • Look out for quality and industry standards, such as ISO 9001: 2008 and PD5454:2012.
  • Ensure your archives are accurately catalogued before placing into storage.
  • Check that your archives are stored on racking and not on the ground.
  • Use a company that CRB checks its employees.
  • Ensure that the company has its own liveried vehicles at all times.
  • Read contracts carefully before signing.
  • Choose a pricing policy that best suits the needs of your business.
  • Try to use a provider with offices and storage facilities in your area.
  • Make sure you are assigned an account manager as a point of contact.
  • Ensure you have direct contact with the operations team rather than a call centre.

DON’T

  • Be afraid to ask for references from other clients before signing a contract.
  • Compromise on quality – inferior services and storage conditions can be costly.
  • Use a company that sub-contracts any of its services.
  • Consider storage with companies where employees do not wear uniforms.
  • Use a company that doesn’t have stringent levels of security.
  • Forget the future – at some stage you may need digital services so find a document management partner that provides a broad range of paper and digital services.
  • Worry if your files are not in order – some providers can resolve this.
  • Ignore your commitment to Data Protection – offsite storage can support this.
  • Use a company that does not offer local account management.
  • Be taken in by start-up business offers without conducting a thorough background check.
  • Use the cheapest archive boxes – there is many a true word in “buy cheap, buy twice”!
  • Overfill your archive boxes. You risk damaging your files and yourself!
  • Get the size of your archive boxes wrong. Choose a size that you can carry.
  • Doubt your instinct!

This article was produced by paper and digital document management specialists, Box-it North West, to give customers guidance on outsourcing document storage.

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