No less than 66% of UK businesses could be putting themselves at risk of document loss due to the mismanagement of vital business paperwork, with many lacking any document management strategy and leaving themselves open to serious threats including General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) fines.
The results of a new survey commissioned by Cleardata highlight that 44% of businesses admitted to using storage lock-ups or self-storage facilities, while 22% store documents in basements and lofts which could be prone to flooding and damp. 17% even put paperwork in sheds and 16% store documents in garages. For 72% of respondents, the main storage option is an array of filing cabinets, cupboards and drawers that take up expensive floor space.
David Bryce, managing director of Cleardata, explained: “Our research found that many businesses are archiving critical business documents in weird and wonderful locations including sheds, basements and lock-up garages and for an average of just over ten years. This can leave vital and sensitive information open to theft and damage, while also making it difficult to find quickly if needed for legal or data compliance purposes.”
On average, it takes businesses between five and six days to retrieve paper documents, although for 44% it takes over a week and for some it takes over a month. This indicates a lack of document management strategy making it difficult to retrieve paperwork quickly when needed, which could prevent some businesses from meeting the required GDPR compliance standards or responding to legal requests for information.
There’s also massive inconsistency in how long businesses hold on to paperwork. This ranges from just six months to over 100 years and suggests that, while some businesses are archiving documents for too long, leading to unnecessary cost and complexity, others are ditching documents that they should be keeping for reference and legal reasons. Only 33% of the businesses surveyed actually use a purpose-built secure archiving facility.
Trademark and Intellectual Property documentation
The paperwork kept for the longest (at 15.17 years on average) is trademark and Intellectual Property documentation, followed by employment records and contracts (13.25 years). In contrast, the paperwork held for the shortest average time (of 7.16 years) is recruitment records such as job application forms, then procurement paperwork, for example supplier contracts (for 8.4 years).
David Bryce continued: “Although we live in an increasingly digital world, historical and new paper-based documents still need to be kept safely and managed effectively. A staggering amount of UK businesses simply don’t seem to know what to do with their paperwork and underestimate the risks that this can create. Implementing an efficient document management process is vital, and especially so if businesses want to comply with the new GDPR and ensure important resources are not being wasted in sifting through oceans of paperwork.”
In conclusion, Bryce informed Risk UK: “It’s clear that the majority of businesses don’t understand what paperwork they’re storing. Without the ability to know what information is being archived, businesses are at risk of a number of serious threats. They can benefit from engaging a third party document management specialist that’s able to ensure important documents are stored correctly. This service can include indexing the documents. Often, businesses don’t have the in-house resource or experience to do this themselves.”