Records Centers: Should Your Organization Choose Centralization or Decentralization?

Jeremy Dunn

All records and information managers must decide whether to store records in a centralized or a decentralized location. Before deciding, they should fully understand these methods, along with the pros and cons of each.

What Are Centralized and Decentralized Records Centers?

In a centralized records center, all physical files are stored in a single location. The location is administered by the records management staff.

In a decentralized records center, the physical files are located in different places within the organization, such as an end users’ office, workstation or other workroom space.

Files in a centralized records center are controlled exclusively by the entire records department, while files in a decentralized records center are controlled by the end user who creates the files.

Pros and Cons of Centralized Records Centers

Pros:

  • All physical files relating to a particular case exist in one location. If a file is needed, end users simply ask the records department via email or online portal to send the file to the end user upon approval.
  • A centralized records center is very secure. The entrance is virtually impenetrable to anyone but authorized users.
  • Standardized departmental practices are authenticated and circulated to all end users.

Cons:

  • End users may have to wait a long time to access files, depending on the approval speed of the records department.
  • Hiring full-time staff to manage the location is a considerable expense.

Pros and Cons of Decentralized Records Centers

Pros:

  • End users have instant access to a file they created.
  • End users are responsible for maintaining file accuracy.
  • A decentralized center does not necessitate a full-time staff.

Cons:

  • A group of end users will be unable to access a file created by another end user if the file creator is not present.
  • End users may struggle to locate a file without records department staff or a chain-of-custody procedure.

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