Author: tech support

3 Factors to Consider Before Scanning your Documents

You may be considering a document scanning solution to reduce your company’s dependence on paper. Paper reduction is a big trend within the business world and is a smart decision for many organizations looking to boost efficiency and productivity.

In order to ensure it provides the most benefit to your business, first consider these three factors:

1. Cost

A professional document scanning solution helps you save money over time. Initially, however, there are upfront costs because of the number of steps required to convert hardcopy records to electronic images:

  • Sorting and organization
  • Preparation and coding
  • Document scanning
  • Document Indexing
  • Image transfer

Quality control procedures ensure all information is accurately captured throughout the scanning process. All of these procedures contribute to your document scanning costs. Determine which records to digitize by evaluating your accessibility and retention needs. Those will be good indicators of which records to scan, and by scanning only the most needed ones, you’ll keep your costs in check.

2. Accessibility

You should be able to easily locate and access your digital information, otherwise you’re in the same place you were with your paper records—taking too much time to find the information you need. Prior to scanning, decide where your digital files will be stored and who will need access. Will they be stored locally on a server, on a portable storage device, or in the cloud? Will you be using an electronic document management system? Regardless of the storage location, it’s important to ensure that your files can be:

  • Integrated with business applications
  • Processed quickly
  • Properly routed and tracked
  • Easily searched for

As a rule of thumb, frequently accessed files should take priority in your scanning project. Inactive, archival documents can be inexpensively stored off-site and quickly retrieved and imaged with a Scan on Demand solution for fast accessibility.

3. Retention requirements

Your information, whether it is in paper format or digital format, has to be kept and tracked in accordance with legal requirements. Therefore, any retention data associated with your paper records should also be transferred to digital copies.

Proper indexing and coding during the document scanning process is vital so retention guidelines can be followed after the scanning. And Optical Character Recognition (OCR), the conversion of printed text into machine-encoded text, allows retention information to be easily pinpointed through keyword searches.

Moving forward with confidence

Document scanning is an effective solution for reducing paper dependence in your company. Incorporate an assessment of cost, accessibility and retention compliance into the scope of your imaging project to ensure your imaging project enhances productivity for your business.

Richards & Richards provides document scanning and online document hosting solutions to businesses throughout Nashville. For more information, please contact us by phone or complete the form on this page.

You’ve Scanned Your Records. Now What?

Document scanning reduces your dependence on paper and streamlines business processes, but searching through an inventory of electronic files can be just as time-consuming as thumbing through a file cabinet. Are your digital documents categorized and labeled to allow easy searching as well as meeting document retention requirements? A document management system offers a solution for ensuring the security, accessibility and integration of your electronic files.

Maintaining security

Paper documents are often mismanaged, which compromises your financial and client data. Problems occur when paperwork is misfiled, files are stored in unlocked cabinets and offices, and essential documents are improperly archived and tracked. The good news is, going paperless allows you to improve the security of your business information.

Document scanning enables information to be stored in a digital format, reducing the chances that someone can gain physical access to confidential documents. But cybercrime is also a reality your business has to face. So, any centralized repository for storing your digital documents should offer:

  • hardened data center protection
  • encrypted file hosting
  • regulatory compliant security

Improving accessibility

Document scanning enables information to be shared more efficiently within your business. For instance, if your paper records have been properly indexed during the scanning process, they can be added to your enterprise document management system.

Online document hosting, which goes hand-in-hand with document scanning, enables your electronic files to be easily located and accessed, and files can be securely retrieved, emailed and faxed from a computer, laptop or mobile device. In addition, highly specific keyword searches can be used to locate specific data within documents and multiple users can access one document at the same time. Online document hosting also offers monitored and auditable information access.

Digital document integration

You’ll want to make sure your digital documents integrate with your current business processes. During scanning process, quality control measures should be taken to ensure all documents are accurately captured. Your digital information will need to be properly merged into your preferred document management database to support your workflow needs. Integration with Open Database Connectivity business applications should also be maintained so that your digital data will be accessible across your enterprise. If you are storing an active or archive inventory of paper files offsite, a Scan on Demand service helps make sure that when you need those files, they are converted to a format consistent with your electronic document management needs.

A final tip

After your document scanning project has been completed and your digital files have been stored so that they can be properly managed, you may be tempted to destroy any hardcopy files that have been converted. Before doing so, be sure to verify your legal and regulatory document retention obligations. Also, it’s crucial to create information redundancy in order to support your data recovery objectives.

Richards & Richards provides document scanning and online document hosting solutions to businesses throughout Nashville. For more information please contact us by phone or complete the form on this page.

Inside a Commercial Shredding Operation

What happens after your confidential documents are collected for destruction? Where do they go? How does the shredding process take place? Is it secure? In this article, we answer these questions and more by providing you with an inside look at a commercial shredding operation.

Collecting confidential documents

A professional shredding service should offer end-to-end protection for your business information at all times. Security begins with the use of shredding collection containers which are locked and placed within your office. Collection containers are designed to make it easy to drop whole files inside while restricting unauthorized access—essentially providing a secure holding area for discarded records which contain sensitive corporate and personal information. Collection containers come in either a 32-gallon capacity executive console style or a 96-gallon capacity security container style.

Handling and transport

First, depending on the amount of to-be-shredded files you anticipate collecting in a given time period, a customized shredding container collection schedule is put in place. Then, all material to be shredded is collected by a screened, uniformed document shredding technician. Executive consoles are unlocked by the technician, the full bag removed, secured and scanned for chain of custody tracking purposes. The full bag is then placed inside a 96 gallon security container and locked inside for transport to the secured vehicle. In the case of 96 gallon security containers, an empty bin is wheeled in and the full is scanned for chain of custody and then transported to the secured vehicle.

From the time a document is deposited into the collection container until all shredded material is recycled, all risks of unauthorized access should be eliminated. Distinctly different from an on-site mobile shredding service, a plant-based shredding service reduces the risk of documents being left unattended while waiting to be shredded. The destruction process does not take place in a highly visible area such as a business parking lot, and strict chain of custody procedures are followed at all times. The vehicle used to transport your documents to the shredding plant is equipped with the following security features, which the technician has been trained to use properly at all times:

  • Locks
  • Alarm system
  • GPS tracking

The shredding facility and process

The commercial paper shredding plant where your documents are destroyed is a highly secure facility. A gated access fence protects the building and property from intrusion. The entire operation features the following:

  • Monitored security cameras
  • Intrusion sensors
  • Audited access technology

In addition to the security measures mentioned above, an additional 17 audit points must be met for a shredding plant to become—and remain—National Association for Information Destruction (NAID) AAA Certified.

At the secure shredding plant, your documents are unloaded inside the facility in order to avoid being blown away by the wind. All records are then shredded into thin strips with industrial shredding equipment. A recording of the shredding process is stored for 90 days. Media assets are placed through specialized shredders to be sure they are destroyed to industry standards and hard drives are individually tracked via serial number before they are placed through a shredder designed to make all information on the drive irrecoverable.

Final steps

After your documents have been shredded, they are baled for transfer directly to a paper pulp recycling facility. Your paper is never sent to a middle man broker before reaching the paper pulp facility. This way chain of custody is maintained until the ink is removed from the paper. Once the entire process has been finalized, you receive a notarized Certificate of Destruction. This document can be used as verification of your legal and regulatory compliance.

Richards & Richards provides secure paper, media and hard drive shredding solutions to businesses throughout Nashville. For more information, please contact us by phone or complete the form on this page.

Streamlining Your File Management Processes and Costs

Do you spend as much time looking for documents as you do actually utilizing them? Does your business struggle to keep up with an increasing amount of information? Has a misplaced document caused a customer to take their business elsewhere? Are your employees frustrated with the time it takes to sort, file and index your records? It sounds like you may have a file (mis)management problem.

Get rid of duplicate copies

When files are mismanaged, documents can be unnecessarily duplicated, which increases your storage and administrative overhead. Scheduling periodic purges helps to cull your office records inventory and cut these costs. With a one-time shredding service, documents can be securely destroyed without impacting employee workflow. Secure shredding receptacles are delivered at your convenience and collected when you’ve filled them. A Certificate of Destruction is provided to you as verification for audit requirements.

Prevent records from piling up

After a one-time purge shredding service, many companies switch to a scheduled shred service. Again, secure shredding receptacles are used to collect sensitive documents for destruction. A scheduled shred service eliminates unnecessary buildup of expired files by providing a solution far more expedient than the use of office shredders. Because dropping whole files in a shred bin is so quick and easy, confidential records are more likely to be disposed of in a timely manner, increasing privacy protection for your business.

Become less paper dependent

It’s not necessary to get rid of all your paper records, but converting as many as possible to digital files can make your life a lot easier. Digital files offer a number of benefits:

  • less space needed to store paper documents
  • less time spent manually retrieving information
  • data can be accessed and shared remotely

Start with converting your most active business documents to a digital format. The scanning process is faster and more accurate when a professional document scanning service is used. It also allows your digital files to be properly:

  • formatted
  • labeled
  • indexed
  • hosted

Outsource storage and indexing

The less paper you have to manage within your office, the more time you have for revenue growth. Infrequently accessed files can be sent offsite as part of a records storage service, which offers faster access and retrieval of documents than is typical with a manual in-house method. Records can be retrieved and delivered the same day. Files are also properly indexed, labeled and verified in support of internal audit and regulatory compliance requirements.

The benefits of better file management

Good file management has a snowball effect on your business. When documents can be easily found and accessed, your clients and employees are happier. Your risk of non-compliance is reduced, there’s less chance your company will become victim to a privacy breach, and your operating costs can be cut so that your organization becomes more profitable.

Now is the perfect time of year to make better file management a priority. Even if you can’t implement all of the solutions mentioned here, one or two can still make a difference. A year from now, you’ll notice a positive change in your organization.

Richards & Richards provides records and information management solutions to business throughout Nashville. For more information, please contact us by phone or complete the form on this page.

Shredding: Doing it Yourself vs. A Professional Solution

You already understand the importance of privacy protection and your legal responsibility for destroying confidential information. HIPAA, FACTA, SOX and GLB compliance is dependent on your ability to implement and follow a destruction policy. Handling all of your shredding needs in-house may initially seem like an inexpensive option given the affordability of office shredders and the fact that you can have your staff destroy documents. However, these savings may be negated by other factors, which we discuss here.

Time and distraction

Shredding equipment has to be regularly maintained to ensure it is constantly in working order. Some devices require regular oiling of their blades. Paper jams should be regularly cleared and the shredding receptacle frequently emptied. Each step in the process requires time that may distract from other tasks.

In-house shredding also distracts from core operational activities. Paper clips, staples and rubber bands must be removed from files prior to being destroyed. Documents have to be separated into easily shredded stacks. Aside from consuming time, the process is tedious and can frustrating for your staff.

A professional shredding service eliminates the burden and time associated with handling destruction in-house. Documents can be securely disposed of more expediently. And as your information destruction needs grow, you won’t have to purchase additional shredders and or place a heavier burden on your staff.

Consistency and reliability

Lack of time and excessive frustration can also lead to procrastination and neglect in the information disposal process, but professional shredding ensures that your business information is destroyed on a regular basis. Secure collection containers are placed throughout your office and their contents are collected at pre-appointed intervals: daily, weekly or monthly. Inserting a no-longer-needed file into a bin is done in the fraction of the time it takes to use a typical shredder. Because the process is so convenient, your staff is more likely to actually do it.

Added security

It’s common for expired documents to sit in a purgatory-like state before they are actually shredded. Empty boxes, desktops, and other un-secured receptacles are favorite “holding areas” for documents that need to be destroyed. Employees push documents aside until they find enough time to actually shred them. This increases privacy breach risks for your company.

In a professional shredding process where locked shred bins are used, information is securely held until it is destroyed, reducing the risk of unauthorized exposure of confidential personal or business information. NAID AAA Certified plant-based shredding companies undergo an extensive audit process before being endorsed. Additionally, the shredding process is recorded and stored for 90 days.

Protection for the entirety of your information

The right professional shredding service not only enables secure destruction of paper documents, but also computer media and hard drives containing sensitive digital data—without having to outsource an additional destruction solution separately. Each drive and tape received is barcoded and scanned with a serial number that serves as the alternate ID, to verify destruction. A certificate of destruction listing each hard drive by serial number is provided at the end of the destruction process.

Richards & Richards provides secure shredding solutions to business throughout Nashville. For more information, please contact us by phone or complete the form on this page.

Records Management Resolutions for the New Year

Resolutions aren’t just for individuals; businesses also benefit from the opportunity to reassess and reprioritize. Evaluating and revising your records management processes is one of the most impactful things you can do for your organization. In the spirit of the “resolution season,” we’ve outlined a few simple steps that can improve business productivity, strengthen privacy protection, and ensure regulatory compliance.

Verify that information is properly classified

A strong records management program ensures that hardcopy and electronic files are properly categorized, and also provides retention schedules to be consistently followed and updated as necessary. This requires input and oversight from each department or division within your organization, since each may have different compliance requirements. Verify that retention periods are correctly applied and consistent with your legal obligations. If you find that your current filing system is out of control and are unable to easily find documents, engage a records management provider who can implement an indexing and verification solution which includes properly labeling, inventory management, and indexing of your records.

Organize and de-clutter paper files

The better your records are organized, the more easily you’ll be able to find the information you need. A filing system needs to be properly labeled to facilitate expedient retrieval, but also needs should protect sensitive information from unauthorized access. Organizing your records according to activity levels can streamline your filing system by enabling inactive and archival records to be sent offsite for storage while affording you more space to store documents integral to your daily business processes. Areas allocated within your office to store active physical files should be locked at all times with continuously monitored access.

Any files that have exceeded retention requirements should be securely disposed of. Prior to your organization and de-cluttering process, engage a paper shredding provider to place secure shred collection receptacles within your office. Doing so will enable sensitive documents to be securely collected and thoroughly destroyed in an expedient manner.

Prioritize disaster recovery

No company is immune to loss of information from a catastrophic event. Disasters strike without warning and with varying degrees of impact to your organization. Properly protecting your vital business information minimizes downtime and increases the chances your company can resume its operation.

Mission-critical documents and files should be stored in a facility that minimizes the risks to paper documents and enables them to be retrieved and delivered at a moment’s notice in support of your disaster recovery requirements. Digital records on storage media should similarly be protected, although in a vault environment that fosters optimal protection and preservation of electronic media.

Records management is an ongoing process, so even if you’ve met or exceeded your resolution, make sure you can sustain it throughout 2015 and beyond. Revisit your program on a regular basis in order to verify it is being followed by your staff. Gather input from key stakeholders to assess effectiveness and revise procedures as necessary.

Richards & Richards provides records management solutions to business throughout Nashville. For more information please contact us by phone or complete the form on this page.

Protecting and Preserving Your Digital Data

The various media your data is saved on may be the most important devices in your organization. If a file is accidentally deleted or your server suddenly crashes, lost data can quickly be restored from a tape, CD, DVD or hard drive; these effectively serve as a life preserver for your business. Unfortunately, they’re also extremely fragile: over time, any media deteriorates which also leads to data loss. Putting your media on a shelf or in a box tucked away in the corner of your office won’t protect them for very long—in fact, it exposes them to even more risk. Preserving your digital data requires taking an active role in your company’s backup strategy.

Wait…what happened to my data?

You’ve been there at some point. While cleaning out your office desk, you come across a long-forgotten thumb drive. You feel a combination of curiosity and excitement. You plug it into your computer only to find that it doesn’t work. You remember that at some point and time you had files—if only you could remember which ones—stored on the device, but now they’re gone. Obviously, they weren’t that important (you hope) or you wouldn’t have tossed the drive in your drawer, but the experience serves as a valuable lesson.

Data recovery letdown

The same thing can easily happen to the backup tapes and hard drives that contain your mission-critical business data:

  • financial document
  • client contracts
  • personnel records
  • tax files

You might attempt to restore these files only to find out that the data you’re expecting to find has disappeared. Imagine the possible consequences:

  • stalled business operations
  • delayed customer service
  • audit failure
  • unfavorable litigation outcomes

Factors that compromise backup media

Here are some factors that could cause your backup media to come up short in the data recovery process:

  • improper storage
  • improper handling
  • natural disaster
  • theft

Your backup media needs to be on-call and ready to go in a data loss scenario. Unfortunately, improper storage can damage or destroy the readability of your backup media. Maintaining consistent temperature and humidity levels are a must. Temperature should not rise above 68 degrees Fahrenheit and relative humidity should hover around 40%. Light and dust pollution, as well as magnetic interference, can severely degrade the data stored on your media.

Your office does not offer a strictly monitored and regulated environment for minimizing these factors, and over time, this uncontrolled environment reduces the lifespan of your media. The typical warehouse or self storage facility presents the same issues. Any backup media left on-site at your facility is susceptible to permanent loss from theft and natural disaster. Therefore, immediately after backup, all media should be transferred to a media vault facility.

Since improper handling also damages backup media, all transport and handling should be handled by a screened data protection professional following strict chain of custody procedures. Once stored in a media vault, your backup media is barcoded and tracked within an inventory management database, which allows for swift location and retrieval during a data loss event.

Richards & Richards provides data protection solutions to business throughout Nashville. For more information, please contact us by phone or complete the form on this page.

Making Sure Your Backups Keep Your Business Running

You want your company up and running at all times. But unexpected data loss can cause your business to come to a screeching halt. Much like regular maintenance for your vehicle, data backup keeps your organization running. It also serves as an insurance policy. We’ve outlined methods for ensuring your backup data works properly and effectively.

Implement a strategy

A data protection strategy first begins with knowing what information needs to be protected and then ensuring that it is backed up properly and on a regular basis. Backup frequency depends on:

  • quantity of data
  • where the data is located
  • the type of information

Relying on the most technically competent person in your office may seem logical, but that person may not have the time, resources or skills necessary for making sure your backup strategy aligns with business continuity, compliance and legal requirements. If your business lacks in-house knowledge, find an expert who can help.

Disaster proof your backups

Having a backup is no good if you don’t properly protect it. Your office may seem like a safe place to store your tapes, however if a man-made or natural disaster occurs, your backup information may be permanently destroyed. Other commonly-used storage options are no better; your IT expert’s house doesn’t offer the robust protection needed to protect vital and sensitive backup media. A safe deposit box may be great for jewelry and heirlooms, but not for a tape susceptible to damage from even the slightest temperature and humidity changes. And a self storage unit also doesn’t offer a secure and stable environment for proper protection and preservation.

A data vault is specifically built to safeguard backup data and ensure recovery of vital business information. Check to see if the data vault you are considering fully protects the integrity of your media, prevents unauthorized access, and offers comprehensive inventory management capabilities. Additionally, look for the following features in your prospective data vault facility:

  • magnetic shielding
  • environmental control sensors
  • media friendly fire suppression
  • 24/7/365 security monitoring

Verify recovery

If a real-life disaster does occur, that’s not the moment you want to find out the way you’ve been backing up your data doesn’t work. Once you implement your backup strategy, test it to make sure it works. Then, schedule periodic recovery testing on a routine basis. This will require that you work directly with your media storage and rotation vendor. The right supplier will be able to quickly locate your mission-critical data and deliver it to your designated recovery or hot site location. At the very least, you should perform simulated data loss and recovery exercises once a year.

Most importantly, don’t let a feeling of being overwhelmed lead to inaction. It’s better to have an imperfect backup solution in place than to have none at all. Every backup strategy needs to be modified and adjusted to meet compliance and information growth needs. With the right resources, you can make sure that your business data is continuously protected.

Richards & Richards provides data protection solutions to business throughout Nashville. For more information, please contact us by phone or complete the form on this page.

Records Management Risks That Haunt You Year-Round

‘Tis the season of ghosts and monsters, but data breaches leading to client identity theft can put the real scare into your Halloween. Managing business records has become increasingly difficult for organizations of all sizes. The more information there is, the harder it can be keeping up with it all. In the spirit of the season, we outline important records management risks to be aware of, so they don’t haunt you year round.

The vanishing file

Companies across a wide range of industries continue to rely on paper records to support their business processes. But when a file goes missing there may also be ton of damage incurred, including:

  • lawsuits
  • loss of clients
  • breach notification costs
  • regulatory fines
  • damaged business reputation

Problems often occur due to a lack of internal resources, reliance on poor document storage alternatives, and/or failure to adhere to retention guidelines. Even with a relatively small amount of paper documents to manage, without the proper systems and processes, hardcopy records can disappear—some get misplaced and lost, and others vanish as a result of theft and malicious intent. A professional records storage and management solution offers privacy protection for confidential documents, prevents unauthorized access to records, and uses barcode tracking and inventory technology to create a stress-free file management system for your company.

Terrorizing data loss

The loss of critical business data can be more frightening than the scariest horror movie. The plot goes something like this: A natural disaster has destroyed your business facilities. Luckily, your personnel are unharmed, but your data is another story. Suddenly you realize none of your backup tapes were moved offsite, so they too have been destroyed. As a result, your business can’t survive.

When you think about how vital your computer data is to the survival of your business, it becomes obvious that it deserves robust protection. Backup media should never be stored on-site at your facility. Instead, each backup should be transferred to a secure, off-site facility. A self-storage facility, safe deposit box, or private residence won’t work. Your computer media is very sensitive, meaning that even a little moisture, heat, or physical shock can degrade the data stored within. Fortunately, there’s a solution for this problem. A media vault provides the optimal environment for the security and long-term preservation of backup media, offering:

  • magnetic shielding
  • environmental control sensors
  • fire protection and suppression
  • ceramic heat insulation
  • round-the-clock video surveillance

Since a media vault is operated and managed by data protection specialists, your critical backup can always be located and retrieved 365 days a year, at any hour, to support data recovery initiatives.

The unknown lurking in the trash

It should come as no surprise that dumpsters are popular haunts for criminals seeking access to personal information. Your business information can easily land in the trash without secure, verifiable document disposal processes. A professional shredding service eliminates time-consuming internal shredding processes and ensures that sensitive paperwork is disposed of in a timely and secure manner. Locked bins are placed in your office where documents can be dropped and kept secure until they are collected and destroyed by screened professionals with a NAID AAA Certified shredding services provider.

Richards & Richards provides records and information management solutions to business throughout Nashville. For more information about how we can strengthen data security for your company, please contact us by phone or complete the form on this page.

The Spooky Things That Could Happen to Your Information

Have you considered the risks to your business information, or is the task of simply managing your data more than enough to think about? Information management and data security go hand in hand, so focusing on one at the expense of the other can create problems for your business. Because you’re so dependent on your information, it’s worthwhile to consider the chilling things that could happen to it. With Halloween lurking right around the corner, the month of October seems like the perfect time.

Documents stolen from the trash

You may be making it easy for thieves to steal your business information. All they have to do is go through your trash. Even with the use of shredding machines, it’s not uncommon for confidential paperwork to get thrown out daily without being shredded. In addition to being cumbersome and time-consuming to use, it is difficult to monitor employee use of shredding machines. However, this problem is eliminated when secure document disposal is made as easy as tossing a file in a recycle bin. Shred collection containers offer a secure option for disposing of paperwork. Files can be tossed into the container where they are securely stored for regular collection and shredding by a professional document destruction company.

Permanent loss of data stored on-site

Having no disaster recovery plan can mean the end of your business. When vital business documents and data are stored on-site, you are assuming a large amount of risk. A leaky water pipe could destroy a whole inventory of paper files. In addition to permanently wrecking hardcopy documents, a fire, flood or other natural disaster would most likely destroy your electronic data as well.

Therefore, it’s wise to store vital business documents, archival and/or historical files and electronic backup media in an offsite location separate from your primary business location. When choosing a location, keep in mind that hardcopy information and digital data have very different storage requirements. By engaging a full-service records and information management company, you’ll be offered both records storage and media vaulting options.

Regulatory non-compliance

Non-compliance with laws and regulations not only increases legal risks for your business but can also permanently damage your company’s brand and reputation. Formalized document management policies and procedures can help, beginning with how information is tracked. At any moment, you should be able to pinpoint a specific file and view all data associated with that file. It’s easy to run into problems if documents are not properly organized, indexed and labeled.

A records management support service helps by verifying your document inventory, creating a file system, and making sure that retention schedules are up-to-date and adhered to. Outsourcing the storage and management of your documents enables:

  • greater audit success
  • lower overhead and internal administrative costs
  • increased focus on revenue generation

Richards & Richards provides records and information management solutions to business throughout Nashville. For more information about how we can strengthen data security for your company, please contact us by phone or complete the form on this page.

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