Money-Saving Tips for Managing Your Information
In tough economic times such as these, most companies are looking hard at all their costs to determine where money can be saved or resources could be better used. One area that is critical to all business operations is records and information management. Companies are required by law to maintain evidence of their operations, but is there a cheaper and better way to manage this information? Here are some things to consider when examining your own information management program.
Will outsourcing save you money?
You must first determine if outsourcing is a viable alternative for your organization. A quick evaluation of your information management practices can help you answer this question. When conducting this evaluation you should:
- Include ALL costs, not just obvious ones
- Determine the risk to your business from catastrophic events or other hazards
- Measure the speed and efficiency of your information management practices.
For example: If you are storing your own boxes in a rented facility, you will find that generally a 10 x 15 unit will cost an average of $80.00 per month. For $80.00 per month, you can store 300 boxes of records in a professional records facility. When comparing the delivery costs for these materials, the cost of employee travel time and loss of productivity should also be considered. In conducting our own evaluations, we have found that 90% of the time having your employees fulfill these services will cost you more than the comparable professional records center delivery and pickup charges.
Upgrading internal records management practices
One of the most important ways an outsourcing partner can assist your operation is by sharing best practice information gleaned from professional associations, publications and other sources. The rapidly changing compliance environment makes it very difficult for small businesses to keep up with the many changes in laws, rules, procedures, court cases and other changes that can improve both the efficiency and complexity of information management programs. Here is a short list of items to consider when evaluating your own information management program:
- Have you written a records retention policy so employees won”t have to guess whether a file or important data needs to be stored or destroyed? Does this policy include all records used within the organization such as: HR records, manufacturing and distribution records, legal records, client files, insurance claims forms and financial records?
- Changes in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require the quick production of a records inventory at a pre-trial discovery conference. Are your records being managed in a database or through the use of a software tool that enables searching? Does this include e-mail management?
- Is there a trained records manager in your office? If not, has an employee been appointed to manage the records of the organization? Has this employee been trained or been allowed to join professional organizations such as ARMA International in order to improve their records management knowledge?
- Have you clearly identified the person(s) responsible for managing the relationship with outsourcing partners? Is this person involved in the selection of an outsourcing partner?
- Are you improving your in-house storage capabilities with file cabinets, storage lockers, fireproof file cabinets and additional servers that you can lock or secure?
- Have you measured the activity level of paper file retrieval in order to know when records become inactive and can be moved offsite to lower costs?
- One area where you should not cut corners is in the selection of durable storage containers for your information in storage. Double-walled boxes are the strongest and can withstand being transported and stacked. Generally, a quality and reputable service provider will have the right carton for all your files.
Data protection and disaster recovery
There are few activities in business information management that are more critical than ensuring the continuity of business operations in the event of a disaster. Small Business Administration research has determined that more than half of businesses affected by a disaster do not resume business operations unless they are adequately prepared. Do you routinely back up your files on Servers, CD, DVD or other media to ensure that you never lose a single record? If you are converting documents from paper to digital images, make sure your policy addresses how long the original documents should be maintained.
Some small businesses feel that they are adequately protected by having employees take computer backup tapes or drives home with them. This is a dangerous practice that can leave your business vulnerable to a large scale disaster or an act of employee sabotage. Private vehicles may not provide the appropriate climate for the transport of fragile computer media. In addition, household hazards such as EMF, pets, children or other factors may render to media unreadable. Finally, good risk management practices indicate that the best way to mitigate the risk associated with intentional acts of malice by employees (immediately following a termination, for example) is to control the access to a data backup through a third party. Your outsourcing vendor can also assist you in conducting disaster recovery tests to determine whether your backup media is actually doing what it is supposed to be doing. Online backup options are also available from many vendors. Specially designed media vaults are used to store online backup servers and computer backup media.
Evaluating outsourcing partners
It should be noted that there is a wide variety of vendors in the marketplace. Service offerings can be more limited when dealing with some outsourcing vendors. In addition, safety, security, access, reputation, experience and overall value should be additional criteria that you consider when evaluating outsourcing vendors.
After doing your due diligence, if you decide to outsource your records management programs, the following information will be relevant to the process:
- Make sure to consider all the information management services to be outsourced and see whether there is one vendor who can provide all these services in one contract. Some of these services include paper file management, computer media rotation, online computer backup services, confidential destruction services, and imaging services such as scan on demand or large scale media conversion. Incorporating all of these services with a single vendor could further reduce your costs and facilitate your records and information management program.
- You should also ask for a tour of the facilities you are considering for outsourcing. Make sure the facility is well organized, has good security protection and fire protection technology in place.
- Ask for a demonstration of the software and hardware the vendor uses to manage information assets.
Pacific Records Management provides records storage and management solutions for businesses throughout Fresno, Stockton, Sacramento, Modesto, and Napa and Solano Counties. For more information, please contact us by phone or fill in the form on this page.