By Brett Harris, General Manager of Metrofile Records Management Eastern Cape, a group company of JSE-listed Metrofile Holdings Limited
A recent study conducted by EDM Group in the United Kingdom found that the average employee working in the financial services sector wastes 1.6 hours a week looking for misplaced documents and information, equating to an annual cost of £2.1 billion (approximately R33.4 billion). While there are no South African statistics, these figures highlight the significant financial losses that could impact any local businesses as a result of poor information and records management practices.
The local financial, telecommunications and medical industries are good examples of sectors where immediate access to critical information is paramount. These industries simply cannot afford to lose documents or data. For example, in the medical industry someone’s life may depend on the availability of vital medical details, which could result in legal ramifications if the information is lost or not delivered on time.
Should a company have no document and information management storage and recovery plan in place, the potential business repercussions include, among others, financial losses, damage to brand reputation, costly litigation, job losses and total business inoperability. Company information is unquantifiable and therefore extremely difficult to insure, making it almost impossible to recover any financial losses.
By implementing an effective information and records management system, businesses can better mitigate the risk of the above mentioned repercussions. An all-encompassing effective information and records management system has two main components: management and storage of original paper documents, and the management and backup of electronic information.
When it comes to original document storage and management, businesses have two options; onsite or offsite records management. Companies that need immediate access to documents and records have no choice but to store them onsite. The key lies in implementing an effective back-up solution and storing the documents in a secure environment that can protect the records from damp, fire and water damage, as well as insect infestation.
Offsite records management is becoming increasingly popular due to space constraints of storing records onsite, as well as the costs involved with implementing the effective security measures needed to securely store records. Offsite records management entails the storage of company data and information in purpose-built facilities, incorporating data protection that involves the securing of a backup data tape in an off-site vault.
In order to avoid the loss of critical company information, businesses should review their existing data storage procedures, identify key information and develop a Business Continuity Plan (BCP). A combination of both physical and online data backup provides the most comprehensive backup storage system. An online disaster recovery site continuously mirrors the information stored on the records management storage system to avoid loss of data due to data corruption.
With effective document and information storage and management systems in place, companies will not only avoid financial losses, but also improve operating efficiency. To find the best solution that best fits the company’s specific requirements, it is always best to consult with a professional information and records management service provider.