You too may remember times when important company information was stored in large grey folders in the filing cabinet, which may not even have been lockable.
It goes without saying that confidential information is kept under lock and key with you today. And the folders that were stored in the file cabinet are now replaced, partially or as a whole, by a digital folder structure on your PC. However, there are still archives, as you can see in the picture above. The digital revolution is in full swing and places high demands on companies and employees — even more so as a result of legal data protection regulations and retention obligations for documents.
A central archive for the multitude of documents would seem to be indispensable. But what actually makes a good archive?
Security in archiving
All documents have a certain value, whether they are received, sent, or, as is often the case, printed out. Whether these documents are in paper archives, in files on your computer or on other storage mediums such as a USB stick, your data must generally be protected from unauthorized access. They must be stored safely, allowing nothing to be lost.
The GDPR came into force in May, 2018, imposing certain legal requirements on the archiving of documents containing personal data:
The right of access by the data subject (Art. 15 GDPR) Upon request, you are obliged to disclose what data you process or save regarding the person concerned, as well as the purpose for which it is processed or saved. Of course, you will need to be able to find personal data quickly, easily, and in its entirety.
The right to rectification (Art. 16 GDPR) EU data protection law obliges you as a data controller to correct any inaccurate personal information. Therefore, not only is speed in data access essential, but also the means to change it.
The right to erasure (the "right to be forgotten") (Art. 17 GDPR) When personal data is no longer required for the purposes for which it was collected, you are obliged to delete it. If the data were subject to a legal retention period, for instance, then deletion of the data must take place at the period's expiration. In addition, an individual may request that you delete any personal data of his that you have stored.
The right to data portability (Art. 20 GDPR) It must be ensured that data records can be easily transferred from one system to another.
Did you know, for example, that annual financial statements and audit reports have a legal retention period of at least 7 years*? The same applies to the general ledger, accounts receivable and accounts payable, purchasing and sales figures, and inventory and wage rates. The medical, chemical and pharmaceutical sectors must observe retention periods more than any other: for processes involving radioactive substances, which may, for instance, involve data from occupational medicine research, a storage period of no less than 40 years* applies.
Some documents can be stored directly in the archive in a revision-proof manner. Other documents are versioned until completion and validation. In this way, the various phases of a record are documented — another criterium that must be adhered to in the context of corporate compliance.
Time saving and transparency
Of course, in the 21st century we don't have to buy a physical vault for secure document management. Today, a good digital archive is easy to integrate into whatever IT structure your company has, be it large or small.
You can find files at the push of a button and link documents that belong together on the spot — just think of an invoice that that needs to be connected to an order, or an employment contract that should be contextualized in a personnel file. Not only do you save time, you also get a detailed overview of the processing status of your documents and achieve transparency throughout the business process.
Flexibility with digital formats
Good digital archives are capable of rendering a wide variety of file formats, i.e., displaying a large number of documents in real time, without having to call up the original applications. This saves time and internal organizational work, and generates profits for your company! Time-consuming "indexing" and "specification of keywords" are no longer necessary. A modern archive sends all information (fields, attachments, full text, etc.) to the search database and spares your employees time-consuming hard work.
If the metadata — i.e., the full text and field values assigned to a document — is in good shape, then your archive will offer you all the convenience you desire!
However you look at it, a digital archive is an integral part of a fast, secure, reliable document management environment.
If you would like to learn more about the criteria to select a new archiving solution, I recommend our white paper covering the subject to you. This you can download here.
*Retention periods in the Netherlands (retention periods vary by country)