The world spent the last 20 to 30 years or so going paperless. Digitization of paper files and easy-to-use document management systems paved the way for enterprise-wide, industry-wide acceptance of digitization. Even Doris, a stickler for alphabetized stickers, reinforced shelving, and file cabinets that weighed more than smart cars saw the benefit of searchable, shareable digital documents—which are many.
If you propelled your company’s productivity into the 21st century already by converting hard copy files to digital files, bravo, forward-thinking business person. But If you didn’t get on board with digitization years ago, it’s time to giddyup.
But if you’re reading this article, you’re not ready to giddyup.
You have paper records—a lot of them—and you’re not quite ready to digitize. You have your reasons. And those reasons are entirely cost. That’s the only reason you wouldn’t choose to digitize the bulky glut that is your paper chaos. And that’s not even a good reason because time lost under all that paper costs more than the productivity gained with a digital system.
It isn’t that you want backup copies because the cloud automatically backs up copies and provides version history. It isn’t that you’re too small to digitize, because even walking down a hallway when you know exactly where Dan put his copy, takes longer than clicking a button and opening a file. Especially when Dan likes to shoot the breeze and derail trains of thought. It isn’t that you don’t trust your files to hackers because cybersecurity keeps files under a better lock and key than the actual lock and key of a cabinet in the corner...that probably isn’t locked—because someone lost that key in 1998. And when a document does go missing, unintentionally or because of a bad actor, there’s no way to trace where it went.
So let’s say you’re getting there. You are going to scan your paper files into digital files. But you aren’t there yet. What do you do to bridge the gap in the meantime? What’s the best thing to do with thousands of pounds of records that are waiting for digital conversion?
The rest of this post is for the analogers out there. The paper chiefs. Those in charge of making the best of a bad situation.
You’re looking at two choices: store on-site or store-offsite.
Given the costs of keeping paper files on-site, as well as the real estate that filing cabinets occupy with a high-volume of documents, opting for an off-site record storage facility makes sense. Except that there are disadvantages.
Here are the top four reasons why record storage facilities aren’t as “amazing” as they seem.
The most obvious—and most significant—disadvantage of a document storage facility is that your organization has to store its business documents... off-site. When physical documents are not physically present, finding them isn’t quick. Stored paper files are never convenient to locate, and adding geographical distance to the equation makes those documents as good as gone. This leads to a reduced ability to make important business decisions quickly. It goes without saying that walking to your car and driving to a storage locker and searching for the document you need under whatever organizational structure the movers used during relocation, only to get back into your car with *hopefully* the correct document underarm, does a number on productivity. Namely, it destroys it. Especially because you feel obliged to pick up coffee for your coworkers on the way back to the office.
While a record storage facility may help alleviate costs associated with on-site physical storage, it is still an ongoing cost that can get quite expensive depending on volume. The fees you pay for storage, coupled with the time wasted locating off-site stored documents (see above), becomes much higher in cost than your organization originally anticipated. A lot higher than if the documents were digital and accessible at the click of a button.
3. Record Security
Most off-site record storage facilities are highly secure–likely more secure than if you store documents on-site in a lockable storage cabinet. But they are still susceptible to the same potential damage as all physical files. Theft, fire and water damage, and degradation are very real threats to the integrity of your records. If your data isn’t copied elsewhere, or isn’t backed up electronically, the odds of losing important information isn’t negligible.
4. Misplacement and Misfiling of Documents
When you opt for an off-site document storage facility, it’s because you’ve run out of space in the office. Your square footage was bursting at the seams with years of physical documents. The paper beast was causing stress and no amount of colourful alphabetized stickers seemed to prevent misplacement and misfiling. This is true regardless of whether you store on-site or choose an off-site record storage facility. But if your files are misplaced or improperly stored off-site, they may be even more difficult to relocate than if they were misplaced on-site. Time is wasted. Productivity is bottlenecked. Money is blowing out the proverbial windows.
The truth is, evaluating on-site or off-site record storage is like picking between the lesser of two evils. Neither are the right choice. Both deal in yesterday and yesterday was left behind by your competitors. You owe it to your staff to bite the bullet and update your documents to digital. Electronic documents change the game. Staff appreciates immediate access to documents and a streamlined document process. Locating files happens in a matter of moments and those files are shareable and collaboratively updateable. When time is no longer wasted looking for documents, productivity wins. And when productivity wins, budget wins. Yes, there is an upfront cost. But that cost is recovered quickly thanks to efficiency.
Opting for digital file storage and management can help alleviate many of the challenges associated with both on-site and off-site record storage, all while improving operations and company happiness.
It’s 2020. Ask the right question: should you digitize immediately, or next quarter? MES is ready to help whenever you’re ready to make that money-saving switch.