Clean Your Files!
With the holidays concluded, you may still be getting back into the swing of things. Thinking about clearing out files may not be at the top of your list. However, when it comes to purging office files, a little advance planning pays off. Determining which files should stay and which can be purged can keep your storage costs down, help limit the risk of security breaches, and protect your organization from legal ramifications.
Securing your data, as well as your clients’ data, should be a high priority. Should your organization experience a data breach, it can destroy your company’s reputation, not to mention the potential financial implications.
The first thing that comes to mind is purging paper files. With the increasing number of federal and state laws and regulations, virtually every entity has a statutory obligation to protect all personally identifiable information. Over the past 25 years, organizations have set up records retention schedules. Routine destruction of paper documents has become standard office procedure. Even if regularly scheduled shredding throughout the year isn’t needed, most offices hold end-of-year purges at calendar year end or fiscal year end.
How Long Should A File Be Kept?
The length of time a document must be retained generally falls into the categories of one, three, five and seven years and permanent records. View a list of examples of which retention period documents fall into, here.
Always Keep a Record Of Destruction
It’s important to keep a record of your data destruction, both your own and that provided by your service provider. The date range, description of the files, the method of destruction, and the vendor if applicable, is the basic information you should record. This information may be included on the Certificate of Destruction if you use an outside service provider. Be sure to review your company’s policy…and if there isn’t one, it’s time to develop one.
What About Electronic Records?
In many professions, electronic documents and records are starting to replace paper. According to a 2009 report from the Association of Information and Image Management (AIIM), electronics records had grown by 70%. However, the same guidelines for paper files also apply to electronic files. When it comes to the disposition of electronic records ask the question “if it were a paper document, how would it be handled? What would be its retention schedule?” “The notion that security is just an IT issue is outdated. Securing your networks and data requires a commitment from company leadership. Purging old and unused data helps lower risk”, according to Howard Feldman, partner at Whiteford, Taylor & Preston.
Don’t forget about information on removable media such as old CD’s and “flash,” “stick”, and “thumb” drives. They should be destroyed as well.
Use this Opportunity to Evaluate Your IT Infrastructure
The general consensus in the IT world was that the average age for refreshing desktops was 4 years, with a slightly shorter lifespan for laptops. Storage devices, servers and network systems last closer to 5 years. After this time, they begin to slow down which affects employee productivity. In addition, if they are not updated or no longer supported, they are vulnerable to security attacks and viruses.
However, the adoption of more sophisticated and mobile devices is displacing our traditional devices. This trend was accelerated during the pandemic when most office employees switched to working from home. But while these mobile devices, like tablets and smart phones, are cheaper than their traditional counterparts, they become obsolete more rapidly. Therefore, the typical refresh of hardware every three to five years may no longer make sense for your company. The annual CYF (“Clean Your Files”) provides the opportunity to assess your hardware, both needs and functionality, as well as all peripherals: monitors, printers, copiers, and network devices including routers, switches, cabling and network connections.
Data Destruction at the End-of-Life
Working with your in-house team or independently, an Information Technology Asset Management firm can help you evaluate your equipment. An ITAM or Information Technology Asset Disposal (ITAD) will collect, evaluate and refurbish or recycle your electronics. Data erasure software that complies with NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) standards renders your data irretrievable.
In addition to physical destruction of non-paper data storage media and degaussing, consider “greener” methods such as wiping which allows the hard drive to be reused. At EVR, we offer you the choice, depending upon legal requirements, your corporate policy, and preference. Our rigorous processes ensure that all data is securely and completely destroyed, giving our clients peace-of-mind, no matter the method of data eradication you chose.
Get your New Year off to a great start with a purged office and a determination to stick to a regular records retention schedule. Contact Electronics Value Recovery to learn how you can safely and securely dispose of your electronics in the most environmentally responsible way.