If you’ve got hundreds or thousands of records storage boxes to move to another location, a typical moving company is probably NOT the way to go…unless they are experienced with document tracking and indexing. In these videos, you’ll see procedures that are unique to document storage and moving. Screen your moving company by asking them how they log and track every box.
Contact Data Storage for more information and estimates.
Data Storage was hired to manage a records move: Tens of thousands of boxes of documents needed to be relocated to a new warehouse. We started asking questions—lots of them—and in no time our client realized they’ve missed a lot of important details. Before we blinked our eyes, they hired us to not only manage the move, but oversee the design and specifications for their records warehouse as well.
For records storage, it’s not just about warehouse layout and workflow. There’s a lot of equipment involved as well. We can spec out everything from shelving to trucks. And we’ve got 30 years of experience doing this. Yes, we know where and how to save money!
How do you recover records and documents that have been damaged by smoke and fire?
We recommend a triage approach to recovering fire-damaged documents.
- Scan all important documents that are recoverable and not too gritty for the scanning process.
- Stabilize damaged documents non-vital to the business to prevent further deterioration. (Typically those documents are vacuum sealed, frozen and stored cold.)
- Recover and store all other vital records offsite, just in case you need them in the future. (Freeze drying, ion deodorizing, anti-fungal spraying and other techniques can recover the dirtiest stuff.)
Scanning is typically the cheapest, safest, and most practical approach to record recovery. Scanning is often covered through your property-casualty insurance policy’s Valuable Papers Insurance Rider. It’s safe to scan fire and smoke-damaged records, as long the documents haven’t gotten wet, or would otherwise damage our scanners. After this recent fire disaster, pictured here, we were able to scan 90% of our client’s damaged documents.
Questions? Contact Data Storage anytime, 24/7.
Retention Schedule Information
All businesses, regardless of size, would find it impossible to survive today without keeping detailed records. But records begin to take up space which, as we know, is one of the primary business needs our industry fulfills. Like our customers, commercial records center owners are faced with the same mounting avalanche of our own business records.
Out of sheer necessity, we must maintain our records as efficiently as we advise our customers to maintain their records. Many of our customers have established records retention schedules, while many more have requested our assistance in helping them establish schedules for their company. Does your records center have its own records retention schedule in place?
Our purpose here is not to create a schedule for you, nor are we attempting to establish time periods to maintain records, as retention periods for specific records are the responsibility of each independent organization. Our purpose is to guide you to sources currently available which will assist you in the creation of your company’s unique records retention program.
An important point to remember is that no two company retention schedules are exactly alike.
There are a variety of resources to draw from when making retention recommendations and a partial list of these resources can be found at the end of this report. Many of the record keeping requirements imposed by the government may also be found in these publications. We do strongly suggest that, due to the possibility of litigation, any company’s proposed records retention schedule be reviewed by its legal counsel, as these are the people who will be called upon to defend the program.
Records...are defined as “those documents created or received as evidence of company activities containing information needed to conduct company business and having a certain time value.”
A records retention schedule:
...is a timetable which is used to identify the length of time a record must be retained in active or inactive status, and when and if the record may be destroyed.
...determines the value of information through careful study and evaluation at the time the schedule is established.
...is an official legal corporate document indicating the length of time groups of records or series of records in an organization’s information system are to be retained.
...provides clear direction for the final disposition of company information.
Benefits of a records retention schedule include:
...reduced office space requirements due to the elimination of unnecessary records.
...improved operational efficiency, since users will save time and effort locating current records.
...consistency in records disposition through following procedures for the maintenance and disposal of records.
...compliance with legal retention requirements.
...protection in litigation or audit through the identification of those records that will need to be maintained and possibly produced.
Retention evaluation must include all information, regardless of media required to be maintained to satisfy operational, legal, fiscal, and historical requirements. The Operational (or user) retention period reflects the period the organization needs the records so that employees are able to perform their jobs. There are times when records are kept longer for operational requirements than they are for actual legal requirements.
The legal retention period reflects the period the organization needs records for legal and tax purposes, the potential need for the records during future litigation and the requirements of state or federal regulatory agencies.
The fiscal retention period deals with those records which relate to the financial transactions of the organization, especially those required for audit or tax purposes.
The historical retention period deals with those records which document past events, often as a record of the organization’s origins and activities. These records will be reviewed periodically to determine if they have continued historical value.
Before committing to a particular plan, you should know which records you are required to keep, as well as the length of time they must be held under state and federal law. Following are examples of some basic records requirements as found in Recordkeeping Requirements by Donald S. Skupsky (see resource list) and recommendations from Culton, Immelman & Associates (see resource list):
Federal Tax Records: Most tax records must be kept for six years from the end of the year in which the records were created. If income has been understated by 25 percent or more, tax records are to be maintained for seven years from the end of the year in which the records were created.
Employment tax records are to be kept for six years from the end of the calendar year.
Payroll: FICA and FUTA regulations have the longest retention periods; therefore, keep payroll records for at least six years.
Employment Applications: One year for all positions applied for.
Actions and Discriminations: Federal law 29-CFR 162033 states that these records must be kept for “last action,” plus three years.
Employee Injuries & Illnesses: Until settlement plus five years. As a general warning, once any litigation or subpoena is received, all records in this area must be retained until settlement, plus five years.
Employee Medical Records & Hazardous Exposure Records: While the employee is active, plus thirty years; some indefinitely.
Employee Pensions and Benefits: While the plan is in effect, plus one year. Detailed records of employer contributions and payments should be kept for six years, and summary records of contributions are to be retained for an indefinite period in order to administer the benefit plan.
State Tax Records: Most states use the federal income tax return as part of the state return. The federal return and supporting documentation must be maintained for whatever period is required for state tax returns. Some states have limitations of action similar to the federal government’s while others specify a retention period of four to six years, especially for sales tax records.
The following pages contain a sample schedule for use in a records retention program. Again, we must stress that no two company retention schedules are exactly alike. Consequently, no two company retention formats are exactly alike and, although the sample presented here represents a good approach, it is not endorsed by PRISM International as related to legality, completeness, utility, and appropriateness for specific requirements. Rather, this sample is presented as a suggestion, with the recommendation that each company develop approaches best meeting it needs.
Columns in this sample are defined as follows:
1. Name of department retaining records; i.e. Accounting, Legal, etc.
2. Each records retention schedule contains a sequential list of numbers (or an alpha code) corresponding to the record series listed. A record series may contain more than one type of document; i.e. a personnel file contains insurance forms, evaluations, etc.
3. Official name given to the group of records as assigned by the department who prepared the schedule.
4. Total length of time the record series is to be retained (office retention + storage retention = total).
5. Represents the length of time the record series is to be retained in the office before transfer to storage.
6. Length of time the record series is to be retained in storage before final disposition.
7. Special remarks related to the record series. For example, “after CY or FY created” indicates a set number of years after either the fiscal or calendar or fiscal year in which the record was created or received.
RESOURCES FOR THE RESEARCH AND ESTABLISHMENT OF A RECORDS RETENTION PROGRAM
Code of Federal Regulations. Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration, Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402
The Computerized Record Retention Research Service. Immelman, Nancy. Culton, Immelman & Associates, 1603 E. Central Road, Arlington Heights, IL 60005. Phone: (704)640-6649.
Developing and Operating a Records Retention Program Guideline. ARMA International Publications Sales, 4200 Somerset Drive, Suite 215, Prairie Village, Ks 66208.
Guide to Records Retention. Hancock, W.A., Editor. Business Laws, Inc. 8228 Mayfield Road, Chesterland, OH 44026, 1987.
Guide to Records Retention Requirements in the Code of Federal Regulations. Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration, Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, 1989.
Legal Requirements for Business Records. Skupsky, Donald S. Information Requirements Clearinghouse, 3801 E. Florida Avenue, Suite 400, Denver, CO 80210, 1988.
National and International Records Retention Standards. Guymon, Fred E. Eastwood Publishing Co., 130 S. Eastwood Drive, Orem, UT 84058, 1991.
Recordkeeping Requirements. Skupsky, Donald S. Information Requirements Clearinghouse, 3801 E. Florida Avenue, Suite 400, Denver, CO 80210, 1989.
Records Retention Procedures. Skupsky, Donald S. Information Requirements Clearinghouse, 3801 E. Florida Avenue, Suite 400, Denver, CO 80210, 1989.
Taking Control of Your Office Records: A Manager’s Guide. Aschner, Katherine. ARMA International Publications Sales, 4200 Somerset Drive, Suite 215, Prairie Village, KS 66208.
In order to justify the conversion costs of scanning you must receive REAL benefits that offset the expense.
A few of the benefits include:
Store Information Electronically
Information that’s stored electronically after it’s been digitally scanned into the database can be password protected and encrypted, protecting it from prying eyes. These documents can also be accessed with ease from a central location with a click of the mouse. Employees no longer have to go searching through countless piles of paper or drive to off-site locations.
Increase Office Efficiency
Once a document scanning and imaging system has been implemented, there will be a noticeable increase in office efficiency. Employees won’t have to deal with a complex filing and recording system, and they can often scan documents into the system right from their own desk. Businesses can benefit greatly from implementing a digital scanning process. Savings from reduced storage, combined with increased employee efficiency, will help increase your company’s profit.
Never Lose a Record or Document Again
Many businesses have piles and piles of paperwork sitting in various cubicles and office spaces. I see it all the time. No one can find anything. This lack of organization is harmful to your business.
Records and documents often get lost in situations like this, and with no electronic image of the original document, you have no proof of what was on that piece of paper. Whether it was an employee file, an invoice or a client billing statement, businesses that find themselves in this type of situation often lose a significant amount of money. Document scanning takes away these issues altogether. When you scan a document into an electronic database, you never have to worry about losing it again.
Document Storage Costs are Lowered
Storing paper records can cost thousands of dollars per month, depending on how much space you need. These types of costs significantly cut into a company's bottom line and take precious funds away that could be used for a more productive purpose. When you partner with a company that specializes in digital scanning, you can almost eliminate storage costs. You will no longer need off-site storage space to house old documents or to pay a clerk to supervise a long and drawn out filing process. The trade-off is the expense involved in setting up a scanning operation of your own, or outsourcing conversion to digital documents.
Call us at 918-664-6164 for some ideas on how best to convert your records to digital images. Our phones are answered by a Data Storage employee everytime, day or night.
When storing records for compliance purposes, records must be protected from pests, humidity and heat. Inventory controls must be maintained and retention and destruction needs to be managed very carefully. In order to meet these basic requirements, some choices need to be made.
- Where are the records going to be housed?
- How are we going to control our records inventory?
- How are we going to manage records destruction?
Self-storage units are the most common method of offsite storage. These units offer a fair amount of security. Most facilities are gated and have on site custodians that keep an eye out for trespassers. Self-storage units are also locked and access to the units can be controlled by the document manager by just being stingy with the key. Self-storage units are often one of the most economical ways to obtain space as well. Other than commercial records centers like Data Storage, no other semi-secure space can be had in 80-100 square foot increments at such reasonable rates.
However, the drawbacks of storing records in self-storage are a little disturbing. Do you know what is being stored in the unit next to yours? The whole point in maintaining and keeping these documents is to protect your organization from liability, provide proof of transactions, etc. If someone runs a meth lab out of the unit next to your records, your records could be burned, damaged or irreparably contaminated by harmful chemicals. I have seen spills of gasoline; paint and petroleum products in neighboring units seep under walls and destroy documents many times.
Self-storage units are also difficult to keep clean. Dust, insects and moisture are constants in this environment. This makes the self-storage less than optimal for maintain viable archives. The dust and moisture necessitate the use of shelving to get the records off of the ground to protect from ants, termites and water.
The purchase of shelving and the transportation needed to haul records cartons to and from the storage unit further add to the inconvenience and expense of this arrangement.
While the cost can be attractive, the lack of protection, lack of convenience, and risks associated with an uncontrolled environment might outweigh the cost savings of professional records storage services.
We invite you to contact us for a storage quote. You may find that records storage companies like Data Storage may provide the best value for document storage!
We all want to go paperless and would...except we still have a lot of paper. Bridging the gap between paper and digital records is a big step towards a paperless environment. We bridge those worlds with record indexing. Record indexing makes your paper records searchable on your computer by capturing important identifying data from the paper originals.
Properly indexed information is separated into various categories for easy searching, retrieval and manipulation. Indexes for medical records might include patient info, document types and visit info. Medical records indexes could include:
- Name: Scott Hambrick
- Date of Birth: Long time ago
- Doc Type: Labs
- Last Date of Service: 2/17/2013
Once this indexing is completed, our customers can search for individual medical records by document type, patient name, patient DOB or the last visit date. Indexing by these criteria allow records managers to locate the records they need (name, DOB), or to pull reports of records eligible for destruction (DOB, Date of service.)
Things to consider when undertaking an indexing project:
- What should we index first?
- For example, some clients may need older sets of records indexed first. Companies that regularly deal with IRS scrutiny may need immediate access to old financial records and invoices.
- In other instances, newest records should be indexed first as they are most frequently searched and accessed.
- Indexing must be performed by trustworthy, professional staff members.
- Indexing analysts have access to sensitive information or trade secrets.
- For maximum records security, thoughtful managers reserve the most sensitive indexing jobs for employees with proven integrity.
- Naming conventions
- Use consistent index subject terms. Since index subject organization is critical, it's trouble when problematic when index names mean different things in different contexts. By the same token, it can complicate data retrieval when indexers use multiple terms with the same essential meaning.
- We always consider the accuracy rates required by the customer and do statistical checks to achieve accuracy targets.
- If complete accuracy is a necessity, we often do double entry record indexing. Two indexing clerks key the indexes for a set of records. Our software matches the work of the two clerks. If it matches exactly the work is accepted. If there are discrepancies, the work is schedule for a redo. Accuracy is SUPER high with double entry.
- What should we record?
- Indexes that are necessary to the record
- Without an oil well name, a well file isn’t very useful. Without an amount, a check stub isn’t complete. Let’s record those things.
- Indexes that aid in managing the record
- Last activity dates allow managers to create lists of records that are eligible for destruction. These dates could be dates of service on medical records, expiration dates on lease files or maturity dates on commercial loans.
- Department codes could provide information about who is responsible for the record.
- Indexes that aid in your work.
- If you look up Purchase Orders by PO numbers, you better index the PO number. Remember, you aren’t limited to searching for records by one criteria like you are when they are filed alphabetically in a file cabinet. You can search for a record by any criteria you record. Name, Date, Number, Description and more can be queried to provide you with very specific and useful results.
We index tens of thousands of records every week at Data Storage We have created records indexing guidelines for each customer and document type we work with. We use these to train our indexing clerks. I’d be glad to share some of that information with you if it would help with your project.
For more information, watch this video on How To Index Records.
Contact us for advice and assistance!
A city hospital in a rural Oklahoma town contacted Data Storage, Inc., in 2012 to request information on off-site storage for an unknown number of medical records. The medical records department was overflowing with files, many of which were considered inactive as they were for deceased patients, were birth records or were files that were already several years old. In addition, the hospital had a large, unknown number of boxes of medical records stored in self-storage units throughout the town.
They faced a multitude of logistical and HIPAA-mandated issues. Their medical files were very difficult to locate because the hospital lacked an inventory and location system. Inactive files could have been in any number of file rooms, self-storage units or hospital attics. A large number of files were eligible for destruction. Because HIPAA requires that an organization be able to produce a list of records that have been destroyed, document destruction would require inventorying every medical record in the hospital’s archive. The inventory was logistically impossible for them to produce as they had lost control of their records management. Their storage costs were beginning to spiral out of control with no clear end in sight.
They asked Data Storage, Inc., to consult on their records management issues. While the task seemed overwhelming to the hospital, Data Storage was able to break each project into manageable components, allowing the hospital to reduce costs, manage records to be stored, make decisions about records to be destroyed and retrieve any file needed within a two-hour span.
As the hospital continues to move toward an electronic document management system as directed by the federal government, Data Storage is able to further assist by imaging inactive files as needed, once again allowing the hospital to pay for only those records of active or returning patients.
This project has spanned several months. Data Storage was able to – within two business days – pick up all files in the hospital’s storage units and box up inactive and birth records and those of deceased patients in the medical records room. Upon delivery to our warehouse, we indexed every patient file within each box, enabling the hospital to access a list of patient files for retrieval, destruction, statistical analysis, etc. There were thousands of files, and this process took several weeks. The hospital is now in the process of determining which files can be destroyed, which will save them money as they pay for only what is in storage.
The latest project within the hospital is to organize and manage the thousands of X-rays stored in their facilities area, thereby saving them space and money. The hospital is outsourcing the management of these records to Data Storage, Inc.
While the initial processing and inventorying of their records cost money up front, their overall monthly storage rates were reduced by 35%. Their staff are able to perform the jobs for which they were hired and no longer spend hours in hot, dirty storage units looking for files. The hospital’s costs continue to decline as Data Storage assists with selecting records that can be destroyed, thereby reducing the overall number of boxes held in managed storage. The benefits of outsourcing the hospital’s files and storage are many, and they continue to be an example of efficient and effective records management.
We know how overwhelming big projects can seem. We've got checklists that will simplify each step...at no cost.
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Optical Character Recognition for Document Scanning
Advances in technology are slowly creating a world in which physical printed information will become unnecessary. As the demand for information to be digitized increases, there is a need for fast, efficient ways to digitize and search documents that already exist in a physical form. That's why demand for optical character recognition (OCR) scanning software has increased so much in recent years. Here's a basic look at how this complex software turns a scanned page of text into information any computer can search easily. Before we discuss how it works, consider the difficulties associated with what character recognition software is trying to do.
Why This Software is Complicated
Document scanning/OCR software is designed to convert text into a searchable digital text document. This sounds easy enough, except for the fact that so many fonts, sizes, formats and quality issues exist in the original documents we scan. Because of this, there is no such thing as a perfect solution for achieving high-quality OCR. As computer programmers spend more time on the problem, however, character recognition is improving, and so is the accuracy of such programs.
How OCR Works
Pre-processing: The first step is to "clean up" a scanned document as much as possible. OCR software uses a variety of techniques to remove artifacts from low-quality scans, straighten crooked images, and remove any blurs to make the OCR process as accurate as possible. Specks are removed, contrast is adjusted and text is sharpened. After pre-processing, OCR begins.
The First Pass: Most modern OCR software for document scanning operates on a two-pass principle. What this means is that the software runs through every document it scans twice. The first "pass" is done without any previous knowledge of the document. The program scans commonly-occurring symbols and breaks them down into their basic shapes, picking out the letters it has high confidence about. In other words, it focuses on the most obvious symbols first, so it can start building a library of what a specific person's handwriting looks like.
The Second Pass: The next step is to take the letters the program has high confidence about and use an internal dictionary to start guessing at words that might fit. The best OCR software for document scanning is capable of checking for the grammar and usage in a sentence, much the same way a good text editor does. While accuracy is never a guarantee, these two passes can ensure at least reasonable accuracy, and the methodology is constantly improving.
OCR has come a long way in recent years, and as we digitize more of our information, its lifespan increases. We are able to OCR documents by a number of different methodologies and hold licenses for several of the leading OCR technologies such as ABBYY, Nuance and OpenText. We can run tests on your documents to determine which of these software programs gives you the best results.
More about document scanning services here.
A friend of mine (not a customer) asked me, “Why would I outsource document management?”
“If you have extra space, you can label your storage boxes and rent some of the basement from the landlord.”
Naturally, I was angry with my buddy for not advocating my services 24/7, but as a long-time records management nerd and provider of professional document management services, I have an answer.
Everyone has storage. Your records are currently stored. They may be wet, crushed, crowded or lost, but they are stored.
Ultimately, if all your business needs is to store a few boxes of documents, you probably don’t need the wide range of services a document management company could specifically tailor to your business.
Good businesses grow, however.
Growing Businesses Need Document Management
Document production escalates. When you are growing you find your file cabinets bulge past their breaking point. When your market is telling you that you can support two more salespeople, you need to carve up the back room document storage space to make room for REVENUE GENERATION! Your new hires will generate even more records to manage. In the face of all this, no one wants to hire a document manager. That’s where I can help.
Document Management Companies Provide for Secure Records, Accessibility and Flexibility
Outsourcing document management to Data Storage, Inc. gets you a lot more than storage. You get:
The Value of Outsourcing Document Management
Small and mid-size businesses can’t afford the personnel to oversee their irreplaceable records throughout the course of their life cycle. And most of the time they don’t need a full-time document manager. To keep businesses on a growth curve, payroll and floor space are better devoted to sales and production than administration. Hiring us as a contractor is inexpensive and provides a lot more services and experience than the average business can develop and sustain on its own.
Professional document management with Data Storage won’t distract your administrative and IT staff from their other highly important roles. The bottom line is that we make sure you know what records you have, where they are, who has seen them and how long you need to keep them—and you don’t have to lift a finger.
That’s why you should outsource document management services.