There’s no denying that digital records have quite a few advantages over paper documentation. Benefits of ‘going paperless’ include simplified search capabilities, more efficient storage, heightened security and automated backup capabilities. There are plenty of sources around the Internet that discuss making the switch to paperless documentation, but to keep your business documents safe, it is better to know what you’re getting into.
Transferring data is nothing new, but the technology used to accomplish it has changed considerably. While the technology once peaked at simply scanning an image of the data into your computer, there is now the capability for scanned media to become a handwriting-interpreting, searchable document. A practical example can be seen in the use of online databases to track one’s genealogy. Handwritten ship manifests, immigration documents, and other handwritten bits of history are now much easier to access and search thanks to advancements in document conversion software.
However, there is wisdom in the adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” that can be hard to argue against. On top of that, there are some industries that are held to regulations that require adherence to assorted record storage and disposal requirements. Before you begin the process of converting and destroying any of your records, you need to make sure that you are not beholden to any of these requirements. Again, these requirements are mostly based on your industry, or the industries you serve, but you may consider following the lead of many small and medium-sized businesses and retain your records a little longer than you are required. After all, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Your industry might also impact how your digital copies of your data are handled. Privacy is a major concern, especially in the medical industry and those industries that make a lot of transactions where credit cards are used as payment. These industries need to be sure that they are in accordance with the regulatory compliance standards set forth by HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and PCI DSS, or the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, accordingly. These regulations, and others like them, make it crucial for you to ensure that your data meets the compliance standards both before and after it has been transferred to a digital record.
You must also consider what kind of resources you can spare for the involved conversion process to take place. Consider this: if a business averaged 5 customers each day in the 1990s, they would have at least 13,000 paper records to either securely store or mindfully destroy.
However, if you want to digitize your paper records but lack the time and equipment, numerous third-party services exist who would happily take on any document conversion process. Your business’ needs, security requirements, and budgetary constraints will dictate if outsourcing this task is appropriate for your business.
If you’re prepared to go digital from the very start, the organization provided by a document management solution can assist you.
If you’d like to learn more about keeping digital records and utilizing a document management system for your business purposes, reach out to Machado Consulting at (508) 453-4700.