Reassessing Stored Files? Consider a Clean Start Approach

Paul Gillin

Let’s hope your next office spring cleaning doesn’t end the way it recently did for the Australian government. As reported by ABC News, two locked file cabinets — for which the keys had been lost — were sold to a second-hand furniture store in Canberra. When someone finally drilled out the locks, the cabinets were found to contain stored files revealing the inner workings of five governments spanning ten years. Many of the documents were marked “Top Secret” and contained embarrassing details about missing files, national defense strategies and profiles of terror suspects.

The government’s miscues were the result of a well-intentioned but mishandled records cleansing process. Every organization should regularly conduct a “spring-cleaning” to assess its inventory of stored files and consider how they may be better protected or even disposed of if no longer needed for regulatory purposes. However, many organizations don’t have the skills (or staff) to assess all possible options, let alone ensure that records are handled with the utmost security and accountability.

Paper records are, in many ways, more complicated to manage than digital assets. Storage options may include digitizing, moving to onsite (or offsite) storage or destruction. Paper records that are digitized might need to be classified, tagged, encrypted and/or stored in a secure vault. If you choose this route, you may want to use optical character recognition to make contents searchable.

After being digitized, paper files should be destroyed in a secure and well-documented process (for regulatory or internal tracking reasons), which you can accomplish by using providers that comply with standards like ISO 27001 and/or NAID AAA. When storing records offsite, security and integrity are critical issues. Look for facilities with redundant power, HVAC and fire prevention systems. Security cameras should provide 360-degree coverage of all areas. Additionally, storage areas should be protected by two-factor authentication, such as the combination of a physical key and a passcode. Loading trucks and transfer areas should meet the same security standards.

Working with a professional records and information management firm can not only protect against unintended disclosure or unintentional display, it can also make the spring-cleaning process more efficient. Iron Mountain’s new Clean Start service combines the company’s expertise in records and information management and asset disposal to squeeze every ounce of productive value out of your project.

The Clean Start program begins with an Iron Mountain representative conducting a thorough walk-through of your organization to identify potential vulnerabilities and areas of improvement. All filing cabinets, shelves and storage boxes are checked and records documented. An inventory is created of all physical records and assets, with recommendations for how they should be relocated, digitized, stored or destroyed onsite if no longer needed.

Physical records are then packed, indexed and assigned retention periods. Files and IT assets may optionally be moved to a secure, climate-controlled Iron Mountain facility where supporting services are available, such as digitization, automatic archival or disposal. The entire process is planned, documented and approved by the customer, with full visibility into asset disposition.

The final step is to redesign the work area to take advantage of freed-up space, streamline workflows and move people closer to the documents and technology resources they need. Many organizations find that the Clean Start program can give them back thousands of square feet of workspace. Not to mention, avoid the embarrassment of having their sensitive files turn up in the wrong hands.

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