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5 Document Management Best Practices

Posted June 06, 2014 by Lynn Brown

Let’s say you are visiting the office of a potential vendor or business partner for the first time. At first glance, you see files, documents, and what looks to be financial papers, scattered on the top of file cabinets and desks; there are boxes filled with files in various places too. 

Unless the company is in the midst of a move (and even still), not only should this scenario leave you wondering about how organized the business might be, it should put you on high alert in regards to the importance – or lack of importance in this particular case – of information security.

Today, every organization, no matter how large or small, has a responsibility to manage the information it handles in a secure and organized way. While a comprehensive document management program protects information from a catastrophe or disaster, it also minimizes the risk of a data breach and facilitates smooth sailing in day-to-day operations.

Here are 5 document management best practices that every business is encouraged to follow.

  1. Effective Indexing: A good document management program has an effective index system based on what the files contain and compliance. It manages file creation (limiting the generation of records or copies that aren't required) and records retention (so records are flagged for secure destruction when they are no longer needed). The program should track filing, manage where documents are in their life cycle, and show whether documents are active, archived, or ready for disposal.
     
  2. Secure Storage: Regardless of format (paper documents, electronic documents, audio or video), sensitive information should be securely stored and protected either in locked cabinets or a locked room. Many experts recommend transferring paper documents into electronic files for ease-of-storage.   
     
  3. Limited Access: The information management system should ensure that all sensitive information that must be kept on file is protected and locked up with limited employee access and secure file sharing. The system should include tools such as authentication and password protection to control access and track and manage who can view them.
     
  4. Retention and Destruction Schedule: All documents and document files should be clearly labeled by what they contain, how long they must be kept, and when they should be destroyed. When documents are no longer needed they must be securely destroyed. Partner with a shredding company that provides comprehensive document destruction including a chain of custody from the time material is deposited into locked storage bins to secure removal of documents for effective cross-cut shredding. The company should provide a certificate of destruction after every shred, and it should also provide hard drive and e-media destruction services. 
     
  5. Staff Training: It is crucial that all employees understand and commit to information security. All companies should schedule on-going training to ensure employees are familiar with – and constantly updated about – document management policies and procedures. While security breach research shows appointing a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) reduces the cost of a security breach, it also helps to create a culture of security within the organization. Also, someone in each area of the business should be responsible for ensuring employees understand and follow policies.

Learn more about document management best practices and how a document retention schedule can make up an important part of you information security program.   


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