Although businesses recognize the concept of records management, many are still yet to implement a solution that can handle today’s overwhelming influx of physical and electronic information. Organizations are finding themselves swamped with data from multiple sources and formats – including video, audio files, digital documents, emails, and physical files.
For you, though, this problem ends here, as you’ll be getting the much-needed headstart. Not only are we clarifying what record management entails, but we’re also laying out a roadmap that you could use to identify the ideal business partner from the many record management companies on the market.
The Importance of Records Management for Your Business
Records management is not just about storing data. It encompasses the entire lifecycle of data within your company – from creation to maintenance, usage, and disposal.
At the heart of this process is a simple yet profound objective – to ensure that your business documents remain at your fingertips, ready to be summoned at a moment’s notice. The data is then preserved for the duration required by your organization.
But, that’s not all. Records management is also about maintaining a healthy data lifecycle, in which documents are handled and disposed of in line with the applicable laws.
To achieve all this, businesses are increasingly turning to specialized record management companies for assistance. This gives them access to automated software solutions that manage the flow of data from entry through storage to eventual disposal. Your documents are stored securely, with the record management company taking care of data encryption, custody tracking, and legal compliance.
So, in essence, you can think of record management companies as four personas all rolled into one – you get a master locksmith who crafts encryption keys, a historian who can trace chain-of-custody reports, a detective who can perform document searches, and a cleaner who can destroy outdated documents.
The Benefits of Record Management Solutions
A solid record management solution will benefit your businesses in the following ways:
- Improves workflows and productivity: With a cohesive records management system, you get quick and easy access to data when it’s required. This, in turn, streamlines workflows and accelerates business operations within your organization. 54% of US professionals admit to wasting office hours looking for important documents in cluttered filing systems.
- Protects data: Acting as some form of a stalwart guardian, your record management company safeguards valuable business documents and preserves their confidentiality. Everything is transmitted through secure channels and stored in well-protected data centers. In the meantime, you get to manage the access privileges, which should help in minimizing the risk of data breaches.
- Ensures regulatory compliance: Through all the data operations, your record management company will keep your organization on the right side of legal statutes, regulatory stipulations, and industry benchmarks. It ensures that every piece of documentation resonates with the prevailing legal framework – from data entry to disposal.
- Preserves company knowledge: Remember the old adage, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”? Record management solutions put the principle into practice by holding on to your company documents long enough to turn them into a blueprint for future managers. You get to build a vast library of knowledge that’ll serve as a stepping stone for tomorrow’s strategic decisions.
- Reduces operational costs: On traditional file management systems, workers spend about six hours per week physically searching for documents. All these wasted hours, when put together, translate into massive losses in productivity and money. The situation can, however, be reversed by using digital records management systems to automate the storage, cataloging, and retrieval of data.
Understanding Different Types of Records Management Solutions
There are various approaches to record management, and each has its distinctive characteristics.
Onsite vs offsite records storage
Onsite records storage refers to an on-premise data handling framework, in which documents are stored and managed within the confines of your organization’s property. This is the traditional form of records management for all types of businesses.
Most of them usually take care of everything independently, while others prefer to enlist the assistance of third-party experts in records management and archiving.
Otherwise, if any of those third-party service providers ever took the files beyond your company’s boundaries, the label to use would be “offsite records storage”.
Your files would then be held in external data centers, providing remote access via the cloud. The point of this off-site approach is to isolate documents and safeguard them from all the internal security vulnerabilities within your organization.
Physical vs digital records management
Whereas onsite and offsite options are differentiated by data storage location, physical and digital records management processes are defined by their data storage medium.
What we mean is, physical documents are in paper form and secured in a cabinet, while digital records exist electronically within computers, disks, and the interweb.
The former is, of course, the traditional method, as businesses have been using palpable paper-based files for ages. Then with the computer age came electronic document management, which virtualized record processing, access, handling, and storage.
Enterprises are now using digital records management systems to hold large volumes of data in binary form under a unified access point. This has helped in streamlining operations, accelerating data processing, and cutting operational costs. The expenses here, even with data recovery contingency plans in place, are just a fifth of the cost of physical documentation.
That, however, doesn’t mean physical records management has become obsolete. The usage of paper is, in fact, growing worldwide. U.S. offices, for instance, are now using an astonishing 12.1 trillion sheets of paper annually.
Hybrid records management solutions
Although 80% of companies want to create paperless processes and workflows, the fact of the matter is, it’s impossible to completely do away with paper in today’s business environment.
The same companies are also torn between onsite and offsite records storage – they happen to enjoy the exclusivity and convenience of on-premise systems while, at the same time, appreciating the accessibility and security of cloud-based storage solutions.
This mixed paradigm has given rise to what we call “hybrid record management” or the “paper-light approach”. What it means is, businesses don’t have to choose between paper and electronic or offsite and onsite – they instead, get to run all of them simultaneously.
Hybrid records management solutions are now said to be the real deal. They give businesses the benefit of both hard copies and digital documents, while the data itself is split between on-site and off-site record storage companies.
According to an Adobe-commissioned Forrester report, as many as 72% of businesses are now running a combination of paper-based and digital workflows. These are the ones who’d benefit quite significantly from hybrid record management solutions.
How to Evaluate Records Management Companies
Don’t entrust your organization’s critical data to just any record management company. You should, instead, qualify prospective candidates based on these five assessment factors:
#1. Integration with your business systems
Your company has already incorporated a diverse array of solutions for document creation and management. There’s no need to shift gears entirely and adapt to an entirely new system for compliant records management. You should, rather, work with a records management company that has tailored its solutions to seamlessly blend in with your current operations.
This is where you review the build of the company’s system, and its ability to accommodate the file formats used in your organization. You need a solution that can support your PDFs, Word files, spreadsheets, and multimedia content. The software itself should also be aligned accordingly with your internal data processing architecture.
Take, for example, a business that creates documents using Microsoft Office 365 or DocuSign. They’d, of course, need a robust solution that can seamlessly process the files in their original format.
#2. Records storage and retrieval
Once you determine that the record management company is compatible with your current system, shift attention to its file storage features. The objective here is to examine the mode, size, architecture, performance, and functionalities of the underlying data handling engine.
You need to know how your data will be treated, where it’ll be held, the speed and rate at which it’ll be processed, the total amount you can store, etc.
For instance, you could consider the search and retrieval features of the solution. Try to find out how easy it is to pull specific records based on metadata, keywords, file attributes, or other pertinent factors. You’ll notice that the best record management companies even come with advanced search tools, filtering capabilities, and customizable metadata fields for improved search efficiency.
Other things to analyze are the storage options and capacity. Can the records management solution cater to your present storage demands, and does it have room to scale with your future expansion? Also, does it support in-house servers, cloud storage, or a mix of both?
You might also want to get a record management company that provides version control. This allows you to track file modifications over time, as well as access older versions of the documents.
And while at it, pay keen attention even to the version control features. You should be able to compare different versions, view edit history, and restore whichever you prefer.
Speaking of which, it might also be a good idea to examine the solution’s backup and disaster recovery strategies. You need both automated and on-demand backup capabilities, along with redundancy plans, plus unrestricted access to your archived records.
#3. Data security
With the average cost of data breaches now extending beyond $161 per record, you cannot afford to compromise the authenticity, confidentiality, and security of any of your records. What you need is a records management company with robust security features.
This is where you consider the encryption system and tools. Not only should the solution encrypt data during storage and transmission, but it should all be managed by powerful encryption protocols. 128-bit AES, for instance, would offer a great balance of security and performance, while 256-bit AES maximizes protection at the cost of performance.
If your organization is expanding, you might also need an advanced document access control system for different user groups and role levels. In that case, you could prioritize elements like role-based access control (RBAC), with which you’d set permissions according to the job roles and tasks
Other than that, the best record management solutions come with comprehensive auditing and logging features. They can automatically monitor and record activities like user operations, data changes, access attempts, and system events.
#4. Regulatory compliance
The records management company you choose should facilitate compliance with all the applicable rules across the document lifecycle. You can make the selection after reviewing each record company’s data storage policies, record delivery systems, record retention and deletion timelines, plus chain-of-custody tracking and reporting.
The laws to be complied with depend on the type of data you’ll be handling, the location of your business, the location of your customers, plus the position of the data centers engaged in the whole operation.
If your company deals with highly confidential information, you might want to prioritize regulatory standards such as HIPAA, FERPA, FACTA, and SOX, among others. Your focus should be on the law that applies to your specific industry. HIPAA, for instance, is meant for health records, whereas FERPA preserves the privacy of student data.
Other than that, record storage companies should conform to international standards and system certifications. This includes NRAA Oman, VERS, ISO 16175, ISO 15489, and DoD 5015.02.
Never try to judge record management companies solely based on price. You should, instead, compare them by value, which can be worked out from their respective ownership costs.
Now, to establish the total cost of ownership, account for both the initial outlay and the ongoing expenses across the solution’s lifespan. Factors to consider include maintenance charges, data migration, software licensing, support services, hardware needs, setup costs, and training.
But, don’t leave it at that. You can proceed to outline the benefits that your business stands to gain from the record management company. For example, you might be expecting optimized workflows, boosted productivity, improved compliance and risk management, decreased storage expenses, plus enhanced efficiency.
By quantifying these benefits and contrasting them with the projected costs, you’ll be able to estimate the overall ROI (Return on Investment) of each record management solution.
Interested in Finding Out More About Our Records Management Company?
Interestingly, these are more or less the same criteria that some of our clients used to arrive at the conclusion that Archive Corp is indeed the most advanced records management company. Ask any of them and they’ll tell you that we stand out in not only service versatility, but also record management tools, system customization, data security, compliance management, system performance, and ROI.
Just check out our wide range of services and see for yourself. You can also reach out to us and we’ll answer all the questions that you might have regarding our comprehensive records management services.