10 tips to avoiding the data liabilities of paper records

10 tips to avoiding the data liabilities of paper records

Businesses are under more pressure than ever before to digitise information - whether it is to save paper and aid the environment or to make their data more accessible and aid GDPR compliance.

In a year in which the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force, bringing new rights for European citizens over their personal data, the spotlight is firmly on information management. But what is so often forgotten is that not all information is digital data.

Information management expert Crown Records Management estimates there are up to 200m boxes of physical records stored in the UK alone. Matt Read, Digital Services Manager at Crown Records Management, said: “That’s an awful lot of boxes, an awful lot of paper and an awful lot of physical data to consider.

“What many businesses don’t realise is that GDPR doesn’t only apply to digital data, it also applies to any personal data stored on paper.

“That could be a wake-up call to some – because it means that in future businesses will need to know what personal data they have hidden away in the warehouse and consider how it could be found, edited or deleted on demand.”

The obvious answer for many businesses is to scan paper records in order to produce a digital version. “Modern scanning is pretty advanced and provides much more than just a scan of physical data,” said Read. “Intelligent software, like OCR, can copy text or handwritten data and make it searchable and editable.”

However, Matt warns that there are still times when scanning may not be the right option.

“If you don’t need to access the data, or if it doesn’t even need to be kept – for instance, because it is out of date – then secure destruction may be the better option,” he said.

“Destroying boxes can also save money in the long term and takes compliance out of the equation. However, it is worth mentioning that some physical records – for instance health data or legal documents - have to be kept for long periods of time by law and cannot be destroyed.

“But, what is most important, is that businesses start to think more carefully about their physical data.”

Here are Crown Records Management's 10 top reasons to scan physical data:

1. Quicker to find files and manage data – and to be GDPR compliant

GDPR gives EU citizens the right to ask for their personal data to be edited, deleted and ported. How are you going to achieve that if the data is on paper in boxes and unsearchable? Scanning makes it quicker to find files and easier to manage data. 

2. Money Saving

Paying for physical data to be stored offsite in warehouses can be an unnecessary expense, especially if in future nobody will know what’s in the box or how to find it.

3. Space Saving

Using prime office real estate to store business records is costly. Scanning documents frees up office space so it can be used to generate more revenue for companies. Thousands of files can be stored on a single server rather than taking up space in bulky filing cabinet.

 4. Improves data security

Protecting hard copy information is difficult at best. Scanned documents can be encrypted, password protected, and securely stored in the cloud. You can assign access levels to specific users and track all file activity.

5. Improves staff collaboration

Document scanning makes it easy to share documents and collaborate on projects without having to reproduce information on paper. Staff in multiple locations can access and view electronic documents simultaneously.

6. Aids audit compliance

Compliance is a reality for most businesses. Document scanning makes it easier for your company to fulfil its legal and regulatory obligations. Digital files can be organised, indexed and produced quickly to meet the demands of even the strictest auditor.

7. Encourages better customer service

If you have customers in more than one region, it’s hard to provide consistent customer service. Instead of having to print and mail bills, invoices statements and other items, document scanning lets you get important information to your clients much faster.

8. Reduces paper clutter and helps the environment

Clutter kills productivity, but paper clutter doesn’t have to be the norm in the office when physical data is scanned. It can benefit the environment, too. According to the Paperless Project, the average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper every year. That’s a lot of trees!

9. Improves disaster recovery

Paper documents are especially vulnerable to fires, floods and natural disasters. Fortunately, document scanning offers enhanced disaster recovery for your business. Digital images can be backed up to tape or hard drive or protected electronically with an e-vaulting solution.

10. Time saving

An AIIM (Association for Information & Image Management) survey found it can take an average of 37 minutes to find one paper file. By contrast, scanned documents can be retrieved quickly and easily without having to leave the desk.

Published: 22 October 2018

Article by Laura Kemp
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