Published 8th of November 2017

Are sensitive documents regularly being left in unsecure locations, or even just scattered around the office? If they are, your business is being exposed to unnecessary risks.

This isn’t scaremongering, it’s common sense. Thankfully, there is a range of simple solutions available for you to implement without needing to take any drastic action. Depending on the scale of the problem, different solutions may be more or less appropriate, but our aim in this article is to provide tips that could apply to businesses of different sizes in different industries.

What is a sensitive document?

A sensitive document is anything containing information about your company or another business that you wouldn’t want to be available to the public. For example, a sensitive document could contain financial information or details of an upcoming product that you aren’t ready to allow customers or competitors to see.

It’s normal to have sensitive documents along these lines in your office. They’re often essential in the day to day running of the company and important for a range of activities, from client invoicing to project planning. The goal of implementing a strategy to manage sensitive documents is not to eliminate the need for sensitive data - that would be impractical - but to minimise the risk of those documents being seen by the wrong person.

Location and policy for internal storage

The most basic part of a strategy for dealing with sensitive documents is a secure place to store them in the office. Some sort of lockable cupboard or filing cabinet is the logical place for this. If you can seal the storage area with a coded lock, even better. It’s much harder for a code to fall into the wrong hands than it is a key. It’s also much harder to lose!

This solution isn’t enough on its own. You may even have some kind of storage cupboard in place. To keep sensitive documents secure, you need to back up these facilities with a company-wide sensitive document policy. This means that anyone with access to sensitive documents should be trained in everything from the basics of knowing where to return them to, to the risks of leaving them out on a desk.

Set a policy for when documents should be secured. A simple solution is to say that all documents must be returned by the time the employee using them leaves the office. For historic documents that need to be accessed numerous times, you could also create some sort of check-in/out system so that you can clearly and quickly see if any documents are missing.

The paperless office

Increasing numbers of companies are opting for paperless offices as cloud-based data storage becomes cheaper and more accessible for businesses around the globe. For many businesses, moving the majority of their documents online is a big step forward in security. Although solutions like Google Drive and Microsoft Office Online aren’t bulletproof, they’re generally easier to control than physical storage.

It is simpler to grant access to a specific group of individuals and those individuals can access sensitive documents outside of the office without having to take the risk of travelling with them. Cloud storage even eliminates the risk of data being stolen from a hard drive, which is always a risk if hard drives aren’t disposed of properly.

A paperless office sounds nice in theory, but how can a business transition to digital storage from their paper-based system? It’s not an instant process, but it’s easy to do with the right strategy.

Destroying unneeded documents

Whether your goal is a paperless office or simply a more secure office, shredding sensitive documents that you don’t need physical access to is an efficient solution. For small scale operations, a simple office shredder may suffice, but more sensitive or larger jobs should be handled by a trusted third party, for the sake of both efficiency and security.

Document shredding is a permanent solution to the risk of sensitive data and the decision to destroy important documents should not be taken lightly. If there is even a small chance that you will require a document in its original form in the future, don’t shred it.

However, needing to access the document in some form is not a reason to save it from the jaws of a shredder. Scanning sensitive documents and uploading them to your business’s cloud or to a bespoke online portal allows employees with the right clearance to access the digital forms of these documents in the future. We offer a scanning service to help you out with this, or smaller jobs can be carried out on a standard office scanner.

Sensitive document storage on a larger scale

A paperless or near-paperless office with high security for your sensitive documents can be achieved even without the destruction of all your digitised documents. Offsite document storage is a service offered by the Shredall SDS Group and other companies to provide your business with a convenient solution.

Document storage involves keeping your sensitive documents locked away in a secure location, allowing you to access the original forms in the future should you need to do so. It is a less permanent solution than shredding, but much more convenient in a lot of cases and can be paired with scanning in much the same way.

On a smaller scale, it would be possible to scan the documents you need to access on a regular basis and store all your hard copies in the office. However, instead of all employees with a code being allowed to remove documents at any time, the storage location could be controlled by just one or two gatekeepers who would keep a close eye on any sensitive documents that need to be accessed at any point.

If you want to find out more about the services mentioned in this blog post, get in touch with us today.