Records management is an ongoing struggle for many businesses, especially when it comes to Business Continuity Planning (BCP). Every time we go to a client site we get asked about what to do with all of the information the business generates. Where should it be stored? How should it be accessed, and by whom? And how do we know it’s up to date? In this post we are highlighting a few tips and tricks for records management to help your business easily survive the next disaster.
What is a record?
Let’s start with the basics. What are we actually talking about when we say ‘record’? Most often a record is a set of printed documents that are kept in file folders or binders. But don’t be fooled! Records also include anything written in employee notebooks, or post-it notes at people’s desks. In short, anything written down for your company is a record. And that’s just hard copy.
There are also electronic records. Most often people think of anything that is generated in any of the Microsoft Office suite of programs (like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.). These records also include pictures, any emails sent or received to the company email address (and yes, attachments too), as well as anything sent or received in instant message programs used by your business.
In short, anything you generate, whether by hand or on the computer, is a record. That’s a lot of information! So how does your business keep track of it all?
Record Retention Schedules
For BCP purposes, we recommend that every company use Record Retention Schedules. At a minimum these schedules describe which records they apply to, where those records are stored, and when (if ever) they should be destroyed. Using record retention schedules will help keep the number of records you need to search through to a minimum; very important if you are looking for something and need it quickly.
It is also important to have redundant copies of your critical records, in both electronic and hard copy format. This way if there is a fire and your hard copy records are destroyed, you still have access to your electronic copies. Likewise, if there is an issue with a virus and your electronic records are corrupted, you can still use the hard copies.
Hard Copy Records
Many businesses feel that storing their critical records in fireproof filing cabinets will protect them from fire. It is important to remember that fireproof filing cabinets might withstand heat, but they are usually not waterproof. If the fire department is spraying water in your file room to put out a fire, you will likely still need to call a document restoration company to salvage whatever they can. And if the file folders are different colours, you may end up with a lovely rainbow of paper with nothing legible on it!
Electronic Copy Records
Most important for electronic records is to perform and store regular data backups, to store the backups in an easily accessible location, and to label everything correctly. Data backups should not be stored in the same physical location as the existing electronic records. Also make sure your IT department tests data restoration regularly so that you know the information can be recovered.
Testing data restoration leads us to Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs) and Recovery Point Objectives (RPOs). In the context of records management, the RTO is the length of time your IT department must restore access to that data so the business can continue to operate. On the other hand, the RPO is the amount of data to be restored. It is possible that not all of your records were backed up regularly, and so some data loss may occur. The RPO might mean that you can only restore all of your records up to 1 week ago. Now, you need to recreate everything that has happened since then.
There are vendors out there that can help you! Records management can be a time consuming endeavour that most companies simply don’t have time to properly implement. There are vendors that will help you scan your hard copies, store your hard copies and your backups, and help you salvage damaged records. Use the knowledge of the experts to better prepare your company for when a disaster occurs.
KingsBridgeBCP offers businesses of all sizes BCP Software Solutions and industry know how based on best practices. We help build, exercise, and maintain Business Continuity Plans. Our services and software packages are customized to meet the wide range of our customers’ needs, ensuring we deliver the best value in every project. To learn more click here or check out our Services.