There aren’t many people who can claim to like admin and we suspect there are even fewer who can claim to like archiving. In fact, we dislike it so much that most of us aren’t even sure how to archive documents properly. Running a business is busy work and certain things just aren’t at the top of the to-do list. Of course, even when there are a few hours to spare, most of us will still find something (anything) to do if it means putting off that huge archiving job for a little bit longer.
Unfortunately, archiving is an inescapable necessity for any business. Whether you’re a recent start-up or an established corporation, all businesses tend to accumulate a lot of paper. From receipts and outdated documents to legal contracts and important files, there’s often just as much paper to keep as there is to throw away. Knowing the difference between the two and organising your paperwork accordingly will not only leave you more space and less stress, but it could be vital to the future of your business. Losing important documents could have serious legal ramifications later down the line.
When it’s finally time to tackle your neglected archiving, there is a simple process you can follow to make the task more manageable. From auditing to organising, we’ve put together easy steps on how to archive like a pro.
To organise your documents properly you first need to know what you’re dealing with. That means taking a thorough audit of all your current documents and deciding what can be kept and what can go. Out of everything you need to keep, you’ll also need to decide the best way to keep it based on what the document is and how often you need to access it. This should leave you with some documents that you can scan and digitise, some that need to be kept at hand in paper format and some that can be archived for long-term but infrequent accessibility.
As with all spring cleans it pays to be ruthless here, but you’ll also need to exercise some caution. Save space and money on storage by throwing away everything that is not absolutely essential, but don’t forget that throwing away important documents can have some serious consequences for your business. Each type of document or record will have a recommended retention period based on what it is and its use to your business, so make sure you assign each document a shelf life taking this into account.
After your audit, you should have a nice sized pile of paper that you can finally get rid of completely. After double checking that each document has exceeded it’s legal and recommended retention requirements, you can begin disposing of the documents using the appropriate methods. If you’re disposing of documents yourself, you’ll need to have a decent shredder that’s up to the job. Often, it’s easier to look for a professional disposal company that specialises in destroying sensitive documents securely and can usually recycle better too.
With the documents you have left to keep, verify their retention timeframes and accessibility requirements to make sure they are handled and stored correctly. Anything that needs to be kept for a period for legal reasons but probably won’t need to be accessed can be boxed and stored as necessary. Make sure to keep a note of each document’s shelf life to make it easier to archive in the future.
If you need to access a document frequently or keep it forever, then consider scanning it and making a digital database of files.
For storing your archived documents make sure you use strong and durable boxes to provide as much protection as possible. Weak boxes or boxes overloaded with heavy files are more susceptible to damage over time. Fortunately, today it’s usually easy to get hold of specially designed archive boxes. These are the right shape and size to store files and documents without overfilling the box, and there are usually spaces to fill in details about the box contents for easier organisation. Regardless of the box or storing method you choose, make sure you clearly label each one with as much information about the contents as possible, so you can find and access your documents easier.
If you feel like going the extra mile and potentially saving yourself a lot of time and energy in the future, consider getting even more organised with your archiving. You can create a file management system with a records database by giving each document a unique number or even a barcode and giving each archive box or location a unique number or barcode as well. You can also store similar documents together for a library-like set-up.
This will then give you a single database to find certain documents and locate them much more quickly and easily, as well as giving you a thorough inventory of all your documents and their upcoming destruction dates so you can better manage future archiving. While it’s by no means necessary and might require some extra labour hours, to begin with, you’ll be amazed by how much time this will save you in the long run.
Once you’ve got your storing system and materials in place you can finally find some storage space. For smaller companies with minimal archiving requirements, you can simply find some spare storage space on site, but it’s important to remember that your archiving needs are only going to grow and your documents need to be as secure as possible. New regulations are constantly coming into effect that place ever stricter rules on data protection and security, so it’s important to get this right from the outset.
Any archiving professional will tell you that while your documents should be kept in a handy location close to your offices for quick accessibility, they should be placed in a secure offsite location. As well as saving you precious office space and giving you some breathing room for future archiving, paper documents are at risk of damage from things like fire, flooding and natural disasters. An offsite location means your documents are safe should anything happen to your office space, and many facilities specialising in archiving will have the security and surveillance needed to protect them.
Having an organised system with clearly labelled boxes is key to keeping your documents easily accessible but remember that they should be physically accessible too. Wherever you store your boxes and documents, make sure that there is walking space and a big enough area for every box and document to be reached. Be careful not to stack boxes too high, put too many on top of each other or block boxes with other documents.
Need to archive important documents? Let us help
From single box storage to our large and secure storage units, we can help you safely and securely store all your archived documents. Whether its short-term storage while you move office or long-term archiving to get more organised around the office, our affordable solutions are perfect for businesses who need to archive in the Bracknell, Windsor and surrounding areas.