For a lot of my clients, proximity equals control. Folks sometimes think that if a file, a person, or a chocolate bar is within arm’s reach that it is always accessible and available. That sentiment is a cause of quite a bit of disorganization. The truth is, there is only a finite amount of space that is within arm’s reach and everyone has to prioritize what they keep close.
Even in our electronic world, some companies still must rely on hard copy files. And there is a finite amount of space in your office or centralized file room. Enter offsite storage options. When files are sent offsite, panic can sometimes result. All of a sudden, there is meaningful distance between a person and their information, and that can cause reactions that border on all-out anxiety.
Offsite Storage Centers
A reputable offsite file storage facility will be secure, climate-controlled, and fire-protected. Standard storage areas have tall metal shelves and forklifts. Many facilities will even have a secured vault (a building within a building) for particularly sensitive materials. Boxes are typically assigned a code that tells the exact location of the box in the facility.
One worry of many business owners is that their files will be difficult to retrieve. A professional facility will often have a promised turnaround times, both standard and expedited (for an added fee). Make sure you are comfortable with those turnaround times.
Ideally, your offsite storage partner should help you with file retention as well. Most information has legal and regulatory “expiration dates” past which it behooves you to destroy the documents. If your offsite storage facility offers document destruction services, make use of them.
Why send files offsite at all?
The first consideration is the security of information. File cabinets such as those that are onsite typically have a 30-minute fire rating. Offsite facilities should have at least a 4-hour fire rating and a fire suppression system that is less likely to damage contents. Additionally, you want to work with a facility that is monitored 24 hours a day and has a surveillance system. So, barring an invasion by Tom Cruise on a trapeze, the files are safe and sound.
The second factor is a financial one. Offsite storage is significantly less expensive (even with retrievals) than onsite. Let’s say that you have files that need to be kept for 10 years. I worked with one client and we calculated that a typical cost of keeping a box of files kept onsite for 10 years was $226. The average offsite cost for 10 years was $44 per box. This client saved over $150,000 by shipping files offsite.
How does offsite storage and a desire to reduce paper fit together?
In many situations, reducing or eliminating paper overall is a more secure and cost-effective solution. However, what do you do with the gobs and gobs of files from years past? Often, there is not a return on investment for scanning old files. They need to be maintained in paper format until they expire. Offsite storage, with agreed-upon destruction dates, is a good solution here.
Additionally there are a few documents that, even today, are best retained in paper format. In law firms, estate documents are an example of this. There is still paper in the world. As long as each house in the USA has a mailbox in front of it, we will still have hard copies to handle.
I hope this article has helped demystify offsite storage for you a bit. Just remember that there are sound business reasons to store hard copy files in locations other than your office, attic, or garage. Don’t pay to store files that should be shredded to begin with, know what you need to keep and what you need to toss.
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Melissa Gratias (pronounced “Gracious”) used to think that productivity was a result of working long hours. And, she worked a lot of hours. Then, she learned that productivity is a skill set, not a personality trait. Now, Melissa is a productivity expert who coaches and trains other businesspeople to be more focused, balanced, and effective. She is a prolific writer and speaker who travels the world helping people change how they work and improve how they live. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 912-417-2505. Sign up to receive her productivity tips via email.