Don’t Let Disaster Strike. Protect Business Documents.

Editor’s Note: First in a three-part series, What is Records Management?, where we outline significant RIM features: Protect Business Documents, Lifecycle and Business Strength.

Who would have thought that Winnie-the-Pooh would wind up in court trying to explain his way around shoddy record management? Well, it wasn’t exactly Pooh himself, but his expensive lawyers defending the “Happiest Place on Earth” in a lawsuit disputing merchandise revenue royalties. The company had inadvertently destroyed critical records necessary to defend the entertainment behemoth in a costly lawsuit. The judge sanctioned Pooh’s owners for destroying 40 boxes of records that could have been used as evidence for his defense. The issue wasn’t whether they had obliterated materials errantly or on maliciously. The fact was that it was the defendant’s responsibility to store and protect business documents until they were no longer required.

Mishandling Records Spells Disaster

One could call being penalized by a judge a disaster that’s as real as a fire or earthquake. The bottom line is that records management ─ both electronic and paper-based ─ is a valuable commodity and needs to be treated as such. However, there is a trend to treat record management as something that can always be taken care of tomorrow. And if the files are saved they are often stocked in scattered boxes somewhere in the office. “Many agencies are not managing the disposition of their records properly,” according to the National Archives and Records Administration. “Or, in some cases, they are saving their records but not taking the necessary steps to ensure that they can be retrieved, read or interpreted.” Electronic records and emails stand out as persistent record management challenges. Many companies fail to ensure that emails are preserved in a consistent manner, and neglect to monitor their own procedures. Companies sometimes follow inappropriate preservation strategies, such as using their own back-up system to store records or printing emails on paper and filing them in public storage.

Hope for the Best and Plan for the Worst

Ideally, companies recognize that a well-thought-out records management plan helps them avoid potential data loss. To remove the danger of data loss from disasters ─ natural or otherwise ─ it is always prudent to manage records offsite in a place custom-designed for storage, security and safety. With records coordinated in an easily-accessible, state-of-the-art filing system, there are no barriers to quick retrieval. This becomes extremely important when files are needed immediately for customers, auditors, lawyers or banks. Offsite records management allows companies to focus on their business at hand, with the knowledge that files will always be stored in a safe environment.