Published 13th of June 2017

Written by Nik Williams - Group Sales Director

In this digital age we’re all aware of cyber crime (whether or not we know exactly how to prevent it), but we’re in danger of losing sight of other forms of security. Statistics from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) show that even as recently as a year ago, the loss or theft of paperwork was one of the most common data security incidents. With many companies switching to digital documentation, there is a growing risk of losing track of old and potentially sensitive paperwork.

There is an obvious financial risk to your business if you don’t take the correct measures to dispose of sensitive waste, but there’s also the risk of falling afoul of the Data Protection Act (1998). If you fail to comply with governmental regulations in the disposal of your sensitive information, you risk fines of up to £500,000.

When we mention sensitive documents, we’re talking about a few different things. The Data Protection Act (1998) is primarily concerned with personal data for individuals, but you should also be conscious of any paperwork containing information about your company’s details and finances.

Now that I’ve got your attention, it’s time to look at some of the measures that your business can put in place to stay on the right side of the law and protect yourself from data security risks.

Store sensitive documents safely

One simple solution is to store your paperwork in one place in the office, like a well-organised filing cabinet. This is an easy solution for smaller businesses with a manageable amount of paperwork, but is by no means the safest way of storing documents for the long term.

The issue with storing documents in your office is that security is often low (compared to other options) and they are at risk of mismanagement or damage. A better option would be to store your documents in off-site units, accessible only to people with a key. However, what you gain in security, you lose in ease of access. If your office has gone entirely paperless this might be a good option, but if not, you’re likely to run into difficulty at some point down the line.

Professional standard storage and scanning

A longer term, more convenient solution would be a professional document management company. Typically, these businesses collect your documents to keep them in a secure storage facility and scan them so that you can access them at any point through the internet. By choosing a reputable document management business you can ensure that you are fully compliant with the Data Protection Act (1998). On-site testimonials are a good place to start when choosing which company to work with, alongside independent review websites and Google business reviews.

Scanning your old paperwork, whether you outsource it or not, is an important step in moving to a paperless office. It gives employees more flexibility and makes it easier to find the documents you need at short notice. Of course, thought must be given to your cybersecurity and how you’re going to protect your sensitive information online as well as what you’re going to do with the paper documents once they’ve been scanned.

Getting rid of sensitive waste properly

In order to comply with document security regulations, you need to do more than just screw or rip a document up and throw it in the bin. At the very least, you need to be shredding the documents that you want to dispose of.

Standard office shredders will do a job, but they are often highly inefficient, and the vertical strips they shred paper into can be reassembled if someone is determined enough. One alternative is to buy a shredder that cross-shreds, reducing your documents to smaller, unidentifiable pieces.

As with document storage, it is possible to outsource shredding to professionals. Choosing the right company will ensure compliance and give you peace of mind that your documents are being dealt with properly. Many companies are able to offer on- and off-site shredding, which will enable you to dispose of your waste however you feel most comfortable.

Leave your paper in the past

Any business moving towards a digital, paperless office must make sure that those old paper records don’t come back to haunt them. Whatever means of storage or destruction that is chosen must comply with the Data Protection Act (1998) and suit the needs of the business, particularly regarding whether or not they will need access to the paperwork in the future. Whatever course of action you decide on, be sure that you don’t neglect your offline security in the race to be digitally secure.