We all know the importance of archiving your documents and the benefits of doing so, but are there some instances where archiving shouldn’t happen?
Every day, your business generates information and data. It can be anything from petrol receipts to the information you collect when customers buy online. You have legal responsibilities to keep some of this data. However, many companies hang on to information “just in case”, a state that could lead to document archiving costing you far more money than it needs to even if you have chosen to use an offsite cheap storage unit rather than expensive office space to store the documents. It is increasingly common for small companies to make use of self storage rather than waste valuable office space for storage. The costs are generally low, especially with all the good self storage deals around but it may still be money that your business doesn't have to spend if you are storing documents that you don't need.
Knowing the law
In many ways knowing what you should not or don’t need to keep is fairly straightforward – you just need to be aware of what the law says in relation to your business sector and industry.
As a general guide, you should always keep documents, data and information relating to:
- Business documents - in other words, anything that establishes you right to conduct your business. This could be anything from articles of incorporation to business permits, licences, certifications etc.
- Financial data – this is the one that people worry about most and in many ways, it pays to keep detailed as well as accurate financial data and information. Check how long you need to hold on to financial information as part of your archiving documents
- Business agreements – this may be the policies and procedures that tie your company into contracts with clients, suppliers and so on. It will also include staff agreements, such as contracts and health benefit packages etc.
- Executive decisions – you will also have company minutes, along with annual reports, health and safety documents that relate to how your business is run. Ensuring you hold on to these is important.
- Compliance – there may also be documentation that relates to your company complying with specific legislation, regulations etc.
What documents you don’t need?
However, in spite of having these five points relating to documents you must keep, many businesses still hang on to information that they really don’t need. On one hand, you may think that you may need the information or document but on the other, it makes archiving documents a cumbersome and heavy process.
To help you understand whether you need the documents or not, ask yourself these four questions;
- Are the transactions or decisions that rely on this information been concluded?
- Have you met all the regulatory and statutory requirements for keeping this information, e.g. have you kept the information for X number of years?
- Is there a statutory or regulatory reason why you should hold on to the information longer than required?
- Are there litigations proceedings that will affect holding on to certain records or information?
Telling a story
Your business records essentially tell the story of your business, charting its rise from humble beginnings to the thriving business that it is today. Keeping documents safe is important, and not just for the regulatory or legal reasons. Backing up data is important too but a separate activity to document archiving.
If you are unsure what to keep, for how long etc., a professional document archiving service can help.