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How to Archive Paper Documents

How to Archive Paper Documents

Document archiving is one of the most important aspects of document management. Many businesses are required to store documents for a long period of time, to meet GDPR guidelines and retention periods.

If a business does not follow good practice when it comes to document archiving, they may run into legal problems, large fines, and unhappy customers. In this guide, we’ll cover exactly what document archiving is, the different archiving methods, and more on archiving paper documents best practices.

What is document archiving? 

Document archiving is the systematic process of storing and managing inactive documents for long-term access. Its primary purpose is to preserve important information, protect against legal and compliance risks, and ensure efficient retrieval when needed.

Documents that aren’t typically needed for day to day use, or may be required by businesses in a few months or years time, are those that are ideal to be archived. These types of documents might include:

  • Legal documents: such as contracts, agreements, and licences.
  • Financial records: such as invoices, receipts, and payroll documents. 
  • Historical records: such as press releases and company history documents. 
  • HR files: such as employee records and performance evaluations.

  • Document archiving is a crucial practice for many organisations, from marketing businesses to schools. By implementing an effective document archive strategy, and having a good knowledge of the process, businesses can safeguard their information, comply with regulations and improve the efficiency of their document retrieval.

    Three types of document archiving methods

    Traditional hard copy storage

    This option is more traditional – you simply archive your paper files by filing them away in a secure filing cabinet or you can choose to use an off-site storage provider to create space.

    An off-site storage facility is the better option for storing hard copies long-term or for files that are not needed often. A secure facility ensures your files don’t fall into the wrong hands and are protected from fire/flood damage. This is a popular option for large businesses that need to maintain a paper trail of non-mission-critical documents. 

    Digital storage

    If your business is looking to go paper-lite, this is the option for you. Scanning and uploading your documents onto computers can be a great option for any business looking to be kinder to the environment and keep their archive documents easy to reach. Once files are scanned, they can be securely shredded to avoid duplicates of information and keep records secure.

    Shredall SDS Group can handle the entire process for you, from scanning all your records to shredding them and providing software so you can easily access your scanned files.

    There are many advantages to this option, including saving office space, working remotely, and keeping your documents secure. However, this option isn’t for every organisation as many prefer to retain physical copies and don’t like trusting their entire document archiving system to a computer.

    Scan on demand storage

    Scan on demand gives you a bit of both, storing hard copies yet scanning them digitally when needed. A company stores their paper documents off-site in a secure storage facility but can request a scan of particular documents, which can be sent straight to their desktop.

    This is ideal for organisations that want to store large numbers of documents off-site but still occasionally need access to them.

    What’re the benefits of archiving documents?

    There are many different business types out there that could benefit from archiving their documents. As we’ve discussed above, the different methods of archiving files have numerous benefits, however the benefits differ depending on whether you want physical or digital storage.

    Digital Archiving 

    Physical Archiving

    Typically low cost

    High on-site storage cost due to space required 

    Cloud based storage 

    Large amounts of storage space required

    Secure due to cloud-based system that requires access granted

    Low security as can be vulnerable to theft and damage

    Easy access due to document indexing and keyword search

    Often hard to find documents due to large volume


    The benefits of document archiving extend far beyond simply preserving paper. It protects your organisation from risk, and helps enhance efficiency for all of your staff. 

    How does the paper document archiving process work? 

    There is a simple process to archiving your paper documents; the seven bullet points below give you a clear overview of the process from start to finish.

  • Assess & plan: Begin by aiming to understand the current status of your documents, identify archiving goals and roles, and create a retention schedule for different document types.
  • Purge & sort: Next, discard unnecessary documents, categorise remaining ones for storage based on importance and access needs in the team. 
  • Digitise: Either manually scan your documents into PDFs for storage, or use a document scanning service that will do the job for you.  
  • Organise & index: Label and categorise the digital archive files with logical file names and metadata (keywords) for easy retrieval.
  • Choose your storage solution: Based on your budget and needs, now choose between off-site storage, cloud storage, or internal servers to host your archived documents. 
  • Secure your documents: Then, when you’ve transferred your documents, set access controls and backup routines to ensure that your files are secure.
  • Monitor & review: Finally, regularly assess archive efficiency, update retention schedules, and adjust processes as needed.

    We recommend automating this process as much as possible using Document Management Software for smoother and more efficient archiving.

    Five tips on how to archive paper documents

    Now that you understand your options in terms of storing files, it’s time to take a look at our top five tips on how to archive paper documents.

    1. Organise your files

    Once you choose your method for archival, the most important tip we can give is to keep on top of your files and have a system in place to manage your archives effectively. Only archive documents if you have a good reason to do so, for instance if they have a retention period. It’s advised to have a company document retention policy so non-essential documentation isn’t retained for no reason.

    Anything that doesn’t need to be kept as hard copies needs to be securely destroyed. We recommend investing in a service from a professional shredding provider who will supply you with a Certificate of Data Destruction once the documents have been destroyed.

    2. Ensure retention periods meet legal requirements

    It is vital that you don’t hold documents for longer than necessary. There’s legal requirements or industry regulations that are set out to advise on how long to keep certain paper documents. A failure to hold documents within the retention guidelines could result in a substantial fine.

    3. Use off-site storage

    Holding large amounts of documents in filing cabinets in an office can take up a lot of space. It can also result in employees spending a considerable amount of time looking for records.

    Storing your documents off-site not only creates space but allows you to focus on other more important tasks, allowing a professional company to manage your documents for you. Off-site storage also ensures that files are not damaged during the agreed retention periods as they are stored in a safe and secure environment. Paper documents are at a high risk of damage and theft, so this is the most secure option.

    Shredall SDS Group’s storage facility has 24-hour CCTV coverage, climate control and fire/flood protection.

    4. Ensure documents can easily be retrieved

    The last thing you want to stress about is not being able to find a document or not being able to retrieve a record in a timely manner. It is essential to consider the issue of document retrieval before you implement a document archiving system.

    Investing in an off-site document archiving service, you don’t need to stress about document retrieval. This is taken care of by your service provider, where a document can be physically delivered to you or sent to your computer for quick retrieval.

    5. Digitise paper documents

    Our final tip is to digitise your paper documents, especially if you are working from home. Choosing to make digital copies of your important documents will allow you to access these within seconds, share them easily with colleagues and add password protection for extra security.

    We highly recommend using a professional service to scan your documents for you. There are many benefits to this like saving your business money on purchasing scanning equipment. Equally, document scanning companies like Shredall SDS Group provide software that can make it easy to search for a particular document.

    This guide has offered our five top tips on how to archive paper documents. If your business needs support with document storage or scanning to digitise your archives, get in touch with our team today.

    Safely archive your documents with us

    If you’re looking for a company to help you get started with the document archiving process, we can help. At Shredall SDS Group, we have decades of experience in document scanning and document storage, helping companies across the UK archive their paper documents and streamline their business operations for good.

    Whether you need secure business storage, document indexing services, or a helpful Document Management Software, we have the service to help you. Get in touch with us today to speak about your requirements.

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