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Physical Document Security Compared to Document Scanning

Physical document security often seems like viable alternative to digital solutions. After all, if all documents your company owns are kept under lock and key, there's virtually no risk of theft or misuse. But what happens when your business expands and documents start to age — are they worth keeping past five, 10 or 20 years? What happens if you change offices — are they worth taking? What happens when there is a disaster? How will you maintain business continuity?

Not So Safe

In the province of Prince Edward Island, Canada, the government learned a hard lesson about improper storage of physical documents. According to an October 7 article, two boarded-up Health P.E.I. buildings in the city of Charlottetown were used to hold personal health records, some dating back as far as 50 years. In the last month, however, the building has been broken into five separate times — concerned citizens then contacted Health P.E.I, which is now moving the 1,200 boxes of documents to a secure location for processing and storage. Some will have to be destroyed, and according to Pam Trainor of Health P.E.I., “we certainly would have liked to have moved the files out before this time but we are certainly taking the situation seriously.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement for physical security.

Improper physical storage can also have a direct impact on cost: in Canberra, the loss of original plans for Phillip Business Park meant remediation companies had no access to information about electric wiring layouts or the number of fuel tanks on site. As a result, the project's work schedule was extended by two years and the budget doubled, from $1 million to just over $2.01 million. Is there a better way?

The New Storage and Security

Paper documents remain common across industries and government agencies. They pile up over decades in filing cabinets, drawers and even off-site at (hopefully) secure facilities. A single break-in or a natural disaster, however, could put all of these files at risk and put a company out of business — while governments must answer the complaints of citizens, consider the implications of a health-based private agency in the United States leaving personal records stored in an insecure facility. At the very least a hefty compliance fine would be levied; at worst, the company could go under.

What's the alternative? Document scanning and secure cloud-based hosted services. Instead of paper files spread out over multiple physical locations and constantly under threat, scanned documents allow simple and secure electronic storage on-site or in the cloud. Beyond basic security, however, digital document management solutions give employees easy access to files they need, complete with a record of who accessed what and when. In effect, security is built in rather than in a building.

Physical document security is possible, but is time-consuming and prone to failure. If left unmonitored, records are prone to theft — if lost, they come with a cost. Digital document management systems change the security and storage equation, providing both peace of mind and return on investment.

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