No matter the state of economy, smart businesses review and cut unnecessary costs. In some industries, this has led to automation, a “lean” approach, outsourcing, or a number of other methods to reduce costs and waste. An area that should be considered as you improve your bottom line is document retrieval and storage.
Document systems cost money in a number of ways. Physical records and information need physical space to be kept. The amount of required space is not static; over time you need more and more of it. Electronic data also requires more space over time; it’s just very different space. Employees can also waste a lot of company time trying to locate misplaced documents. What probably costs the most in document storage is the risk that something vital is corrupted or gone forever. Losing things like financial documents, client records, research, or specifications, for example, can devastate a business. Therefore, cutting costs by managing your document system means you have to consider a number of things.
Onsite or Offsite?
One of the first questions to ask is whether you should keep your documents onsite or outsource the storage. To make the best decision for your company, consider the following:
- Required Space – Remember: documents accumulate. You will never be shaving down the amount of space you need for your records and hard copies. If you plan on your company growing, it may make more sense for you to keep these vital documents offsite to make room for more people and facility amenities. Documents are the easiest thing to take out of the equation when space starts to get cramped.
- Required Security – This will depend on the type of information you’re storing. If you need state-of-the-art security to protect your business records, it will probably be less expensive for you to outsource than try to accomplish this in house. Without regulation compliance, your in-house documents are prone to compromise or sabotage. How much would it cost you if that happened?
- Disaster Protection and Recovery – When disaster strikes, the most catastrophic loss is not equipment or furniture; it’s the loss of critical data. How safe are your documents from fire, water, or any other potential threat? There are document storage facilities that can stand up to a number of natural and man-made disasters.
- Retrieval – Keeping your documents safe and intact doesn’t do you much good if you can never find them again, anyway. If you have an in-house system, evaluate how many man-hours it requires to locate and replace files in one day. Good document storage companies use bar coding and RFID technology to organize your data so it is fast and convenient to retrieve.
Paper or Electronic?
There is another option that eliminates the need for space while still being convenient and easy to find. Converting paper to electronic files, when it’s done, saves a lot of time and energy. The biggest question here is whether it’s cost effective.
Storing boxes of paper documents costs anywhere from 75 cents to $2 per box per month. Electronic storage costs a fraction of that. However, the cost of the conversion itself ranges from 1 to 5 cents per document. If you have millions of documents, this can be a significant cost for you. You want to do the math of storage over time and factor in two more points:
- Security – The obvious concern here is whether a system can be hacked and/or susceptible to viruses. Even commercial virus protection and detection software is not evolving as quickly as the people attacking our computers. With outside services, there is still a risk to your data. However, given the vulnerability of paper, that medium is far more likely to suffer irreversible damage than is electronic data. The bottom line is that for your most critical data, it is safest stored digitally by an outside service. If you store it yourself or onsite, be sure to stay updated on security, and make sure you back up multiple copies.
- Disaster Recovery – Electronic data is the most resilient to disaster. Rarely is it ever truly gone. However, if your hard drive crashes, you may never recover it. Backing up your data, as mentioned above, is smartest. However, storing CDs, DVDs, flash drives, etc. onsite still makes your data vulnerable to fire, water, and other damage. For your most critical information, outsourcing data back up will prove most the reliable and cost effective.
As stated earlier, the total cost of your document storage plan will depend on your capabilities, the amount of information, and the cost of losing the data forever. Once you’ve committed to a plan and complete the initial conversion, the hard part is done. Even if you have to spend some money to invest in storage, if you choose the right plan for you, it will positively affect your bottom line for years to come.