Records Management Blog | Practical Records Management

Records Management Vendor Selection Guidelines

Posted by Michael Thomas on Wed, Jun 09, 2010 @ 11:16 AM


The amount of Paper in the average office continues to grow by 20% to 30% each year, and Offsite Document Storage is often required for companies that have either outgrown their existing space, or have too many files to efficiently manage in their current configuration.  No matter what type of company you have it is increasingly important to adequately plan for the proper storage, retrieval and purging of documents.  Now is the best time to consider putting a good records management policy into effect, and for most small and mid-sized firms, a good records management policy should include the use of a qualified records management partner. But how do you know who to work with?

Choosing a partner for Offsite Document Storage should be based on several important factors including:

  • Experience with records management - Experience can make a world of difference when choosing a Partner. Working with the right company can help you avoid many of the common challenges and pitfalls experienced during a Record Storage Project.
  • Knowledge of business practices - The most effective Records Management companies will be able to understand not only the business of storing and retrieving information, but will also understand how you will use this information on an ongoing basis. This helps to make the relationship work more seamlessly. Keep in mind that the Partner you choose will be an extension of your resources - they're going to have all of your information!
  • Ability to provide prompt service - There seems to be a predisposition to slow, plodding service for many Record Storage Companies, and there really is no need for this. Next-Business Day Services should be the standard, and it's important to inquire about Scan-On-Demand services to ensure that you can access your files within hours if and when such a requirement arises.
  • Affordable pricing - One of the most common complaints about Record and Document Storage Partners from Clients is the feeling of being Nickel-and-Dimed for every little service. Take caution to look not only at the price but the measure of quantity. For example, some firms actually charge based on the Cubic Foot, not just on the price per Box. Also, be aware of any ancillary charges such as Fuel Surcharges or Account Administration Fees. Both of these are a sure sign of a company that doesn't really have your best interest in mind and is simply looking to pass along any cost that they can to you, the client.
  • Contract Flexibility - Long-Term Contracts can mean big trouble, so be careful when considering them. Record Storage Contracts often have Permanent Removal Charges or Hostage Fees built into them and can be very difficult to break. To make matters worse these contracts many times will also have Automatic-Renewal Clauses which make them difficult to ever escape. Be careful if you see these clauses - after all, shouldn't your Records Management Partner have to earn your business with quality service like everyone else?

What to Expect from your Records Management Partner

A records management partner should work with you to determine your records management needs and not be able to make a recommendation immediately. Beware of anyone who tells you that they understand what you need before you even explain your situation.  Every company is different and their needs vary.  There is no one plan that is right for every business.  A good records management partner will help find the solutions that will make sense for your company.  They will help find not only short-term solution for document storage but also a future plan to keep your company running smoothly for years to come.

Tags: Document Management, File Storage, Records Management

What is Archive Storage?

Posted by Michael Thomas on Tue, May 04, 2010 @ 08:59 AM

Bueller... Bueller... anyone want to take a crack at this "exciting" topic?

Archive Storage is a bit of a confusing term for many people, and oftentimes people will use the term to describe one of two things:

  1. Archival Storage of Paper Documents - If you're looking for long-term storage of paper documents, then Archive Storage is likely the way to go. Our Facility, for example, is designed to accommodate long-term retention of documents for a low-monthly fee. Pricing is based on the volume of information to be stored and the retention requirements (how long you need to keep the files), and is expressed as a Price Per Month, Per Box. For Bankers Boxes (1.2 Cu. Ft.), our monthly storage price is usually less than $.30 per box per month, but pricing can go both up and down significantly based on the total volume of information that you have.
  2. Archive Storage of Data Files - Especially now, Paper is not the only thing that you need to keep for a long time. For Data Archiving, there are a number of solutions and services available, but there are very few of these solutions that offer true long-term, permanent data archiving. If permanent Archive Storage of Data Files is important to you, then storage on Optical Media, is likely the most appealing option.

If you need to preserve your Paper Documents for a long time, we can certainly help. Contact one of our Archive Storage Experts to get pricing for your specific project. For more information about long term archiving of data, visit our partner Data Archiving Corp.

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Tags: Document Management, File Storage, Records Management

Looking for File Storage in Manhattan? Read this first.

Posted by Michael Thomas on Mon, May 03, 2010 @ 02:20 PM
Manhattan File StorageI'm sure you've heard all the stories about the high cost of real estate in New York. Well, they're all true, and possibly the biggest waste of space in the Manhattan Skyline is the amount of space that companies are still using to store Boxes of files. In spite of the slumping real estate market, the cost per square foot in Manhattan is still astronomical, and understanding that there are much more affordable alternatives can lead to some significant savings for companies.

For example, I recently met with a Law firm that was using about 400 Sq. Ft of Prime Commercial Space on 7th Avenue for file storage, and this was just on one of their six floors! Even Now, with Midtown Manhattan's Class A space posted an average asking rental rate of $64.26 per square foot in the first quarter of 2010, the monthly cost for File Storage for this firm is $2,142.00 - Not exactly the best use of funds when you consider that you could store the same 2,000 Boxes offsite for less than $600.00 per month.

In the end, if you're still keeping old files in your high-priced office space, now might be a good time to reconsider this strategy. Your bottom line will thank you!

Photo Credit: Aturkus

Tags: File Storage, Records Management

HR Document Management - There's still paper there?

Posted by Michael Thomas on Fri, Apr 23, 2010 @ 12:09 PM
Over the past two or three years, I've noticed a significant increase in the number of human resource departments looking for document management solutions to help them reduce the amount of paper and improve their overall business process related to access and maintenance of employee files. To me, It makes perfect sense that human resource departments are looking for document management solutions, when you consider all the filing organization and storage that goes on inside, and the increased pressure to do more work with less resources and time.

Human Resources - PeopleLast night, I was at a dinner with some friends and we were talking about our businesses and the areas in which we help our clients. During the discussion I brought up how we've recently finished scanning over 1,000 employee files for a large insurance firm. One of my friends, who owns a Professional Employer Organization, or PEO, asked the question "there's still paper there?" I confirmed this fact and shared with him some more about just how many projects we're seeing in this space recently, and he mentioned that he always operated under the assumption that most HR departments were early dealing with documents in an electronic format, and he was surprised to find how much paperwork we're seeing HR departments still working with. Well for those of you who are not in HR, you may be surprised too.

When I first started working with human resource departments I quickly learned that HR is not really one department, but rather an amalgam of many different business units loosely tied together under the term "Human Resources". Human resource departments may include payroll, recruitment, benefits, employee relations, employee development, risk management, and many other specialized departments. While many, HRIS systems and HR service providers offer fantastic solutions for their specific area, the main employee file is often still printed and stored in traditional file cabinets to avoid scattering the various documents throughout disparate systems.

Document management offers a unique opportunity to address this challenge. Human Resource Document Management allows you to create folders and organize data based not only on the employee but also into subsections for medical benefits, correspondence, training, emergency contact information, payroll and more. In short, an effective document management solution will allow you to create in a digital format what the employee folder provides in a physical format by tying together loose pieces of employee data into one easy-to-use system. In addition to helping to consolidate this information, a document management solution can help human resources to operate more efficiently by reducing the time spent accessing and searching for files and essentially adding capabilities to existing HR software.

In most cases when we talk about human resources document management with the client were talking about our enterprise-level solution, OnBase. OnBase is unique because it offers a number of features designed to integrate with other applications which is a common concern in HR. Whether you're using PeopleSoft, Lawson, or any number of other products OnBase allows you to scan paper files and integrate electronic documents into groupings in folders that can be retrieved directly through those application interfaces. Equally as important are the capabilities of OnBase to incorporate workflow to help drive HR related document processes. Workflow helps automate a number of the repetitive tasks that HR administrators deal with on a daily basis by allowing improved employee self-service and automated notifications of changes in status and other employee related updates.

In some cases, the budget or need for a full-blown document management solution is just not feasible right now. For HR departments that aren't ready to make an investment in a document management solution however we also offer outsourced scanning services for human resource documents to help archive and provide immediate retrieval for employee files. This option allows HR departments to box up and ship us both active and inactive employee personnel folders which we will scan, index, and provide access to via either CD or ImageSilo, our hosted document management solution. For many companies, outsourced backfile scanning services provide an excellent first step towards making the transition to a more robust document management solution.

In the end, human resources is like many departments within companies today, technology is takingthem closer toward the paperless office, but paper still provides a valuable medium for archiving, storing, and retrieving information on a daily basis. Through the use of a HR document management solution or outsourced document conversion services, though, firms can help reduce cost and focus on improving the quality of service to employees instead of spending time searching for documents.

Tags: Paperless Office, Document Management, File Storage, Records Management, Document Scanning

Scanning Documents Saves Space, but at What Cost?

Posted by Michael Thomas on Wed, Apr 21, 2010 @ 04:25 PM
One of the most common reasons that people start scanning documents is because they think it can help save space. While it is true that document scanning will help reduce the physical footprint required to store files, most of the time reclaiming space should not be a primary driver for starting a document imaging project. If you need to reclaim space in your offices, or if you're moving your facility and require a new place to store your documents, you should probably consider outsourcing the storage of your files before you look at document scanning.

Shoreline Records Management WarehouseI've seen some people in the document imaging industry make a business case based on the square-foot charges related office space and the overall overhead and operating costs of the facility, which may seem compelling, but the truth is that the ROI is just not there. If you consider that the average banker's box holds approximately 2,650 pages, and that the average price printed for scanning is around seven cents per page, you're looking at $185.50 to scan that box of files. In comparison you could store the same banker's box in a record storage facility like ours for about $.30 per month. That equates to off-site, secure document storage for 618 months for about the same price. 618 months that's 51 years! Well beyond the typical retention requirements for business documents.

The real reason to start a document scanning project is to facilitate ACCESS to documents. While the storage of documents and the conservation of space is not usually a good metric to base your return investment, the concept of improving access and retrieve ability to your important business files should be the force behind your document imaging project. Immediate access to corporate information often leads to better decisions and better customer service, both of which have positive effects on the bottom line of the organization.

Keep in mind as you start to explore the concept of document imaging that it's not the solution for all of your business records, and that you can use a hybrid approach and scan only those files that will be retrieved on a regular basis. If no one is ever going to look for and retrieve the file it's probably better off being put a box and archived to be retrieved at a later date. On the other hand, if documents are going to be retrieved on a regular basis, and they're retrieval has an important impact on business operations, you should consider investing in scanning those files. Another reason to consider scanning files, is if you can use the images to drive the business process or transaction related to the documents. By using images to drive process, in a workflow for example, you can reduce the likelihood the file will be lost and also reduce the latency involved in the processing of those documents.

Whichever option you choose, always be sure to keep in mind the real return on investment and make sure that your making the best financial decision for the storage and access of your corporate records.

Tags: Document Management, File Storage, Records Management, Document Scanning, Document Imaging

Document Storage Boxes - They're more important than you think!

Posted by Michael Thomas on Mon, Apr 19, 2010 @ 05:05 PM

A few weeks ago we made some recommendations regarding choosing the best box for your document storage needs, and the truth is that we can't emphasize enough how important this is. We found that countless companies are still storing their information in Copy Paper boxes, and the results are well, less than outstanding.

Copy paper boxes are made for a very specific purpose. They are designed to ship packaged paper from manufacturer to distribution to consumers. Once the paper has arrived to the consumer, that boxes lived its useful life, and not much more can be expected. Unfortunately companies seem to see an empty box and think that'll make a great place to store their important files. Please avoid this temptation.

Archive Boxes, such as the Paige Miracle Box, are designed to stand the test of time. They manufactured specifically for storing documents. They’re made with double walled construction to ensure that they can be stacked regardless of whether or not their contents are full. In addition they manufactured to a higher standard using reinforced cardboard to ensure that they don't break during transit and have handles which make them easier to move around the office.

Another differentiator between copy paper boxes and archive boxes is capacity. Archive boxes are designed to handle documents in either portrait or landscape storage meaning that you can store both letter and legal documents, depending on the orientation, and they also accommodate the full height of 8 1/2 inches per page, which is not the case with most copy paper boxes.

If the budget is tight and you must use copy paper boxes, at least be sure that you're putting some duct tape or packing tape around the outside to make sure that the box stays together during storage. I can tell you from experience that there's not much more frustrating than having 2,000 pages strewn across the floor because inferior boxes fallen apart. Using the right boxes for document storage is such a simple decision to make that easy to overlook, but making sure to plan in advance can help you to avoid a big mess further down the road.

Tags: File Storage, Records Management

Records Management - Make a Rainbow in Your File Cabinets

Posted by Michael Thomas on Mon, Mar 22, 2010 @ 02:01 PM
Rainbow Files

DID YOU KNOW??? The magic world of OZ was named after the alphabetical letters O - Z on the bottom drawer of author L. Frank Baum's file cabinet?! 

Well, your files likely aren't in Kansas, but sometimes, a little color can really brighten up a records management strategy. When planning ahead for next year’s file management, consider using colorful file folders. By using colorful folders, or even just different colored folder tabs, it becomes easy to visually identify older, outdated files that can be destroyed or moved to storage. If you choose to use a different color for each year of your seven year retention cycle, it becomes very simple to go through and archive legacy files. 

If you're creative enough to grab the whole rainbow, you could go all Pink Floyd and synchronize your filing work while watching the Wizard of Oz... 

Tags: File Storage, Records Management

Permanent Removal Charges : A Dirty Little Secret

Posted by Michael Thomas on Fri, Mar 12, 2010 @ 07:15 AM

Permanent Removal Charges are a little known facet of a Records Management Contract, and worse yet, they're often hidden by an incumbent document storage vendor until you want to move your boxes out of storage.

When it comes time to relocate or shred documents that have been entrusted to a document storage company, typically there is a nasty and little known technicality that suddenly shows it’s ugly face. I prefer to call these hostage fees, but those others more clearly define this as “highway robbery” but in the context of an agreement, I've seen them referred to as Permanent Removal Fees, Document Removal Fees, or Early Termination Clauses (who defines "early?"). 

Whatever you call it, the bottom line is, these nasty fees will have a negative impact your bottom line.

So how did you sign up for this? Well, At some point, between the smiling sales person and the signed agreement a sneaky clause identified the permanent removal charges. It's easy to overlook because it seems benign until you multiply these fees by hundreds or even thousands of boxes you have in storage. Per your agreement, moving your documents now requires a huge fee - sometimes as much as $7.00 per box on top of the standard retrieval charges.

It’s an unfair situation, especially if the vendor has poor service or they have lost records. It seems counterintuitive that you should have to pay to remove your boxes from storage or possibly move your storage account to a different vendor.

How would you know that you are subject to permanent removal charges?  A careful review of your contract may reveal this clause. 

Because some vendors will charge up to two years of storage costs when you request terminating the relationship they rely on the fact that it may be too costly to move the documents, so you wind up staying.

If you are in a contract with permanent removal charges, there is something you can do about this.

1.  Find out immediately if your contract contains a permanent removal charges clause or “permout”. 

2.  If so, to determine how much it could cost to move your boxes or terminate, multiply your boxes by the fee.

3.  Contact your document storage company to find out whether you can negotiate a lesser rate, or if there is a period of expiration.

4.  Talk with another document storage vendor to determine if they will  negotiate on your behalf with the incumbent.

5.  Understand that this is an item to look out for in any new agreement you consider for document storage.

Note: Shoreline Records Management is sharing this information because we believe that our client’s information is their property, and when the client feels it’s time to remove, scan or destroy their records, it’s the client’s decision.  Our policy is that we do not and never will hold our client’s records hostage!

Tags: File Storage, Records Management, Business Strategy