Top 5 Record Retention Best Practices
Data moves the world and as technology advances, so too does the amount of data that businesses need to retain effectively access. Moreover, while cloud services and applications make it easier to access data, security is of paramount importance in protecting trade secrets and customer privacy. The following are five record retention best practices that every business needs to adhere to:
- Keep it Secure
Data security is essential and one of the most important record retention practices to adhere to. The data your business collects can potentially be used for everything from identity theft to financial fraud. Sensitive electronic data should be stored on secured servers, data should be digitally encrypted and password protected. Access to data should be limited and security patches along with updates should be promptly installed so that hackers can’t break through firewalls or your other security measures.
- Adhere to Regulations
There are multiple regulations that govern how data pertaining to the storage of records related to: financial transactions, medical care, employee payroll, etc. For example, businesses should retain tax records for a period of seven years since the IRS can come after your business for failing to report income for up to six years after your filing. Credit card statements, utility records, and medical bills, should be retained for a period of three years. Businesses must stay abreast of the most recent changes to the law and ensure their record retention practices align within these; doing so can help protect a business from an audit or lawsuit.
- Get Rid of Clutter
Not everything needs to be stored, and it is not uncommon for businesses to maintain records and documents that have long passed their usefulness. Digital and physical documents that serve no obvious or valuable purpose should be disposed of using secure methods. This includes shredding old files, flyers, notes, and receipts that are not useful for continuing operations. Identifying and removing this clutter makes it easier to stay organized and focused on current tasks and responsibilities. As a general rule of thumb, if it is not a business record and it is 3 years old or older, it’s most likely something that can be shredded and disposed of.
- Get Organized
It is best to streamline your record keeping practices throughout your operations. Every employee should be trained in your organization’s record retention policy and the proper handling of both digital and physical data. Since each business is different, it is best to thoroughly assess the various types of data a business collects during the course of operations. Once identified, managers should determine the most efficient and effective methods of collecting and storing the data so that employees can retrieve it and utilize as necessary. To this end, it is wise and recommended, to use industry specific tools, software programs that are custom designed to handle the input and output of information effectively.
- Use Cloud Storage for Physical Records
Physical records take up an enormous amount of space and can be an easy target for wondering eyes to fixate on. By utilizing a cloud document management system or cloud storage, you are freeing up valuable office space and removing clutter from offices. You are might also be freeing up space for new conference rooms. Cloud services allow easy access to stored information so there is no hassle with retrieving files when needed.
Note: This document is intended to help you get started. All organizations should review their record retention policies with a qualified attorney to ensure that they maintain compliance with the relevant laws and regulations that govern their organization.