Archiving Paper Documents: 6 Best Practices

Apr 20, 2022 | 0 comments

One of the most important aspects of document management for small businesses is the proper archiving and storage of important paper documents and records.

It’s good business practice to archive any documents that might need to be referenced later or that you’re legally required to keep in storage for a prescribed period.

This is particularly important for tax records that the South African Revenue Service (SARS) requires small businesses to keep for specific time periods or indefinitely.

1. Check what retention periods are required

Find out which business documentation needs to be archived and for how long. Different documents will need to be archived for different time periods.

This is important because some documents may be legally required for future audits and referencing. Also, archiving everything indefinitely becomes very costly over time.

2. Dispose of unimportant files

There’s no need to keep documents that aren’t within the retention period for that type of record. Remove documents that you no longer need to archive and find a secure way to dispose of them.

Paper shredders are the most common way to get rid of old documents. There are services that can do this for you to ensure that documents are properly destroyed.

3. Find a suitable storage space

Paper documentation must be stored carefully to avoid damage from pests, moisture or disasters such as fire or flooding. Theft should also be considered.

Find secure, clean and dry storage space that’s not too large but will accommodate your growing archives for a few years.

Store paper archives offsite or in another part of the building, so you don’t risk losing physical and digital records at the same time in the event of a disaster.

4. Ensure documents can be easily retrieved

Your filing system should make it easy to access old records if you need to reference them. The storage facility shouldn’t be too far away or you might procrastinate on regularly archiving documents.

Set up your archive system so it’s easy to remove documents that no longer need archiving. If not, you’ll end up with an endlessly growing archive full of documents that fall outside of the retention period.

5. Use proper storage and archiving techniques

Your filing system is important, but the way you store documents is equally so. Piling documents flat in a box, for example, makes it hard to find records in the future.

Use folders, lever-arch files, filing cabinets and archive boxes to ensure you can find archived documents quickly and easily. Clear labelling is important.

6. Digitise files where necessary

As vital as they are, paper archives are vulnerable to damage and destruction. Digitising vital documentation will ensure there’s always a backup stored on the cloud.

It also makes it easier to access information immediately, even if the physical document is still required in the long run.

For documentation that’s still being actively referenced, you can digitise it for staff to access without delaying the archiving process.

Get your storage requirements from Ecobox

You can buy archive boxes that are ideal for archiving paper documents from Ecobox’s online shop.

At Ecobox, we also offer:

Visit one of our retail locations to get the office moving supplies you need or simply order online and we’ll deliver to your door.

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