New Year’s Resolution: 5 Tips for Purging Paper Files

With the holidays only just concluding, you may still be getting back into the swing of things and thinking about clearing out paper files may not be at the top of your list. However, when it comes to purging office files, a little advance planning pays off. Determining which files should stay and which can be purged can keep your storage costs down, help limit the risk of security breaches, and protect your organization from legal ramifications.

Securing your data, as well as your clients’ data, should be a high priority. Should your organization experience a data breach, it can destroy your company’s reputation, not to mention the potential financial implications.

In addition, purging files each year can keep your company from legal exposure. If you no longer have data that you aren’t required to retain by law, you wouldn’t be able to produce it in the event of a legal inquiry thereby, reducing your legal exposure. However, if you choose not to shred files and the documents are still in your possession, you would be required to produce them.

Why Outsourcing Shredding is More Effective Than DIY
While there are many reasons that outsourcing your office shredding is better than doing it in-house, year-end shredding is when most companies discover the disadvantages of DIY.

Here’s why:

  •  In-house Shredders can process a limited volume of paper. Most office shredders do an adequate job of shredding small amounts of paper every day but they can’t handle large quantities at one time. Continual use causes them to overheat and shut down so you must wait to resume shredding. Shredders costing under $100 average 12 sheets at a time - one file box can hold up to 3000 sheets!
  • Employee time is needed. Most of the time, paperclips and other fasteners must be removed first, a time-consuming menial task. Most employees’ time would be better spent on core responsibilities.
  • Professional consulting is often required. Employees may not always know exactly how to dispose of every type of data, whether paper or electronic. Having a professional shredding service take care of your purge can save employees time and frustration.

How to Handle Electronic Records

In many professions, electronic documents and records are starting to replace paper, however, the same guidelines given for paper files also apply to electronic files. When it comes to the disposition of electronic records ask the question “if it were a paper document, how would it be handled? What would be its retention schedule?” Vangel is a proponent of physical destruction of non-paper data storage media as opposed to other methods such as wiping and degaussing. At Vangel, we shred hard drives and other digital media to ensure that all data is securely and completely destroyed, giving our clients peace-of-mind.

How Long Should Paper Files Be Kept?

The length of time a document must be retained generally falls into the categories of one, three, five and seven years and permanent records. View a list of examples of which retention period documents fall into, here.

Always Keep a Record

It’s important to keep a record of your data destruction, both your own and that provided by your service provider. Note that many shredding vendors include the Certificate of Destruction language on the invoice. Be aware that the retention period for invoices is only seven years and your Certificate of Destruction should be retained with your permanent records. You may want to re-categorize these invoices for permanent storage. A scanned copy after seven years should suffice.

Top 5 Tips for Planning a Successful Purge

Planning for and executing a paper files purge shouldn’t have to be time consuming or difficult. With the help of a professional shredding service and these tips, you can plan on an efficient and secure purge for the new year.

1.) Review your records retention schedule to see what stored files have upcoming destruction dates and get an estimate on the quantity.

2.)In addition to purging stored records, consider holding a “Clean Your Files” day or week for broad-based employee participation.

3.) Contact a professional data destruction service provider to help you determine the appropriate number and type of containers to place strategically throughout the office for documents that do not need to be archived.

4.) Decide whether you will have a “shred it all” policy or if employees should sort regular recyclable paper from documents that need to be shredded.

5.) Once you pick your dates and draft your memo, include the dates you will be collecting, a description of the containers, where they will be located and contact information.

Get your New Year off to a great start with a purged office and a determination to stick to a regular records retention schedule. Contact Vangel today to schedule a pick-up.

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