Today we have a simple solution to keep paper documents safe: Create a digital backup. However, we all have aging paper documents that require protection and a safe way to preserve them. Although we are in the digital age, there are still some documents that must be produced, stored, and presented physically. Businesses can commit to creating a paperless workplace, but that still leaves managing existing paper documents.
It is also difficult to go completely paperless when customers, vendors and suppliers still depend on paper for invoicing and other forms of documentation. So how does your business protect paper documents? Here we look at paper protection options, as well as five tips to protect the paper documents your business can't be without.
How to Protect Paper
If your business has important documents it must preserve and protect, there are a few paper protection methods to consider:
How can I protect my paper without laminating?
Synthetic or waterproof paper is designed to protect documents from water damage, wear, and elements that lead to degradation. It is tear-resistant and waterproof like laminated paper, so it lasts even in harsh environments. Documents are printed using an electrophotographic dry toner application allowing you to produce printouts using colour or laser copiers, but also digital presses. It has the same effect as lamination without the need for a laminating machine.
What can I spray on paper to protect it?
There are a few ways to spray the paper with waterproof sprays to protect paper including clear polyurethane coatings, clear acrylic spray paints and lacquer spray sealers. These sprays make paper waterproof and come in assorted finishes that are either matte or glossy. However, it is a time-consuming process and requires good air circulation to avoid toxic fumes.
How do you keep paper from deteriorating?
Important papers survive longer when stored in a cool, dry environment. Temperatures should not exceed 75 degrees Fahrenheit (F) and relative humidity should be between 15% to 65%. This environment prevents mould while reducing the risk of brittleness.
How do you preserve paper for centuries?
Paper preservation requires special acid-free, buffered boxes, folders and sheet protectors. These storage items are expensive and only available through archival supply companies. Buffered boxes and folders used with alkaline liners neutralize the damaging acids released from paper, helping slow down degradation.
How do you preserve fragile documents?
The first step is to use the same acid-free boxes and folders mentioned above. However, when documents are already fragile, they require additional support. The archival quality acid-free liners can be used in combination with archival plastic covers to add a rigid layer that keeps the paper from flexing or tearing.
Tips for Protecting Paper Documents
Although there are several ways to protect paper and documents, businesses need to take a more proactive approach. Introducing long-term business solutions helps standardize document management. Here we offer five ways of protecting paper documents from common threats in a typical business environment:
1. Have a Records Retention Plan
All businesses have critical documents and records they need to store whether it is customer personal information, employee data, business contracts, invoices, tax information, and more. Creating a formal records retention plan allows you to introduce a standard process that ensures all important documents are stored in the same manner. Records should be organized based on categories, and then dated based on the designated length of time the document must be kept legally or based on company policy.
Records can then be destroyed to free up space in your designated document storage area. A records retention plan must be formalized and shared with all staff to ensure everyone follows company procedures. This is the only way to avoid document loss, time-consuming document searches and overflowing storage areas with out-of-date, unnecessary documents. You can include document digitization in your records retention plan to make the process easier. Paper documents can be scanned and stored using cloud-based technology allowing you to standardize all documents into one easy to store, index and access format.
2. Implement Security Protocols
Security protocols ensure paper documents are safe from theft and "peering eyes." When you implement security protocols you restrict access to documents based on job roles. Only those requiring access to complete their daily duties have access to sensitive documents. Filing cabinets and/or storage rooms must be locked and only those with permission have the key or code to enter. Protocols should also include a document request process so those who might require a document for a specific purpose have temporary access. The protocol should include all critical steps to protect information including:
- Authorization based on roles
- Storage process for how documents are handled from start to finish
- Indexing rules to avoid lost or misfiled documents
- Signing out documents with dates and signatures
- Return and refiling processes
- Documents restricted from leaving the premises
- Security cameras if the information is highly sensitive or proprietary
Again, considering a scanning process in hand with secure document management software can help improve security and introduce restriction protocols to limit access.
3. Consider Off-Site Storage
Off-site storage is ideal for records that you need to store that aren’t accessed on a daily basis. This frees up space and keeps documents secure. However, it does complicate the expired document process, while also costing money for the storage facility. You might find it makes more sense to invest in a scanning service, and then purchase a scanner for use moving forward. This is a more cost-effective solution in the long term.
4. Dispose of Documents Safely
Once documents are no longer required, you still have to ensure the information is protected during the disposal process. For example, in some states, you need to blackout customer personal data contained in a document before throwing it away. However, even outdated sensitive information should be protected. Therefore document shredding is the best way to ensure the disposed-of document will be unusable.
5. Scan and Digitize Documents
Today, going “fully digital” makes the most sense. Archive document scanning isn’t just a solution if you wish to replace the originals. It is actually still the right solution when you have to retain the originals. It protects paper documents, provides an easier document management and access process, and is your best way to avoid complete loss should a fire, or natural disaster occur. Electronic transfer of documents is a must in the digital age providing a competitive edge. You can effectively share documents efficiently and securely with customers, vendors, suppliers, government agencies, etc. while improving collaboration across the entire organization.
Although all of these options work to protect paper documents, backing up your physical copies with scanned copies is the best choice. Digitization reduces storage space, avoids lost documents and maximizes security. Speak to our team about your digitization options to protect your paper documents.