Storing and managing documents entails increasing security risks, so get thee to the cloud!
In 1975, an article in BusinessWeek heralded the era of a “paperless office.” Since then, high tech has transformed business by replacing manual processes with electronic communications and data.
But the promise of a paperless office, storing and managing documents (all), has not been fulfilled, writes Mark Emery, an expert in paperless document management, in a recent Forbes guest post – “Paper,” he says, “continues to be a dominant medium for mortgages, legal contracts and a number of other official documents that need to be carefully reviewed and signed every day.”
“Organizations that don’t take secure storage and destruction of critical documents seriously are simply tempting fate.”
Many paper documents are subject to strict regulations governing consumer privacy, so businesses can’t just throw them in the trash or in the recycle bin. The risks and fines related to the mismanaging of storing and managing documents are surprisingly high.
There are additional drawbacks that come with improper storage of physical records, such as a damaged reputation and lost customers. These potential firestorms aren’t enough for some organizations. Each day there are new reports of identity theft and personal records found in public places, which is a clear indication that paper documents are not being properly protected.
Emery Notes -
In Texas, Dallas County officials allow paroled prisoners to earn community service time by sorting and shredding confidential documents, such as birth certificates, Social Security cards and medical records for over ten years. The practice is currently under review.
In 2010, paper documents from four Massachusetts hospitals were found un-shredded in a public dumping facility. Another Massachusetts hospital admitted that documents containing personal data for over 800,000 people was missing.
New York City Police Department records containing sensitive information regarding deployments of its weapons of mass destruction task force were found in a Manhattan trash can in 2011.
The point is clear: when paper records are not stored or destroyed in a secure manner, organizations put themselves in harm’s way. From a financial standpoint, unsecured paper documents can draw incredible fines:
Over a two-day period in 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, citing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), fined two hospitals a total of $5.3 million for improper management of paper records. These were the first two fines ever levied under the regulation.
A Florida bank agreed to pay $850,000 to the state and an additional $125,000 to a charitable organization after an employee stole records that included credit card numbers, bank account information and other personal data of 8.5 million customers.
Concludes Marc Emery at Forbes: Paper is here to stay, and organizations must do a better job securing documents during the entire span of their life-cycle. Consider the following strategies which will assist in the difficult process of document safety and compliance –
Limit Personnel Access
Invest in Paper-Saving Technology
Consider Moving Records Storage Off-Site
Securely Destroy Unnecessary Documents
Organizations may rely more heavily on digital solutions for storing and managing documents than in in 1975, but its dependence on paper is still prominent and will continue to be an everyday component of the business landscape. Paper isn’t going anywhere.
Editor’s note: If you are considering the convenience, security AND savings that moving your office applications and document management to the right cloud affords, find out why we were named the #1 office and accounting cloud by more CPAs independently polled, and then schedule a 7-day test drive of Cloud9′s next generation service.