In a recent blog post, we discussed where to store your paper files, including archive files. In some industries, records retention requirements – and the resulting high paper volume – necessitate off-site storage. When storing files offsite, it’s critical to know which files are where so they can be located as needed with a minimum of fuss. This blog post discusses how to determine what to store offsite as well as how to retrieve easily.

1. Decide how you want to group your files. This could be alphabetically, numerically by client number, or chronologically by service date. Your choice will be informed by industry guidelines, your onsite record-keeping system, and how frequently you purge the archives.

2. To make location of archived files easier, create file indices for your archives. Include the following on the file indices:

  • Box number
  • Description of Contents
  • Location of Box in the storage area

Your index needs to contain enough information to know where each file is without having to dig through the boxes.

3. Decide how frequently you need or want to purge your files: Annually, Semi-annually, every seven years, or something else. If storage space is at a premium, you may need to do this more frequently.

4. Lastly, consider where your offsite storage will be. Ask yourself:

  • What are your industry guidelines, and do they dictate information security constraints?
  • Will weather be a factor? Could your files get wet or moldy?
  • Who will have access to the information? Does storage need to be locked?

The result of a well-planned archive file system will be easy retrieval and simple processes for purging and destroying of old records.

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