Authored by D. Scott Foret
Today, a lot of documentation can be stored and retrieved electronically. The number of printed documents you may have to keep has certainly decreased over the years. However, there are some documents that you retain that you may need to store somewhere. The following list is a summary of some documents that may require hard-copy storage:
Keeping important documents at home is certainly convenient. Retrieving documents from a simple file folder is quick and easy. However, you need to consider the risk of loss or theft of such important documents kept at home. To replace these hard copies in the event they are lost or stolen could be problematic and time-consuming.
Another, more secure, alternative is a fireproof file box or cabinet for home document storage and protection. Be aware that these storage options are not entirely without risk, as there are often time and temperature limitations to the level of fireproofing they provide. Documents are more secure, as there are often keyed locks on them. However, there is also a one-time cost to purchase them.
You can also choose to store documents outside of your home. Many banks offer safety deposit boxes that charge you an annual fee. You generally need to have an active checking or savings account at the bank. Also, since many people take advantage of this option, there can be a wait list for box availability. The costs of these boxes vary by size. Be sure to assess what volume you will need to store your documents – the larger the box, the more the annual fee. While secure, they are not the most convenient. Getting access to your documents includes making a trip to the bank, verifying your identity, and having a banker allow you access to your box. They are very secure, however, often kept in a locked safe within the bank.
For those documents that you don’t need to keep as hard copies, you may elect to keep versions of them electronically. This might involve direct storage on a computer or mobile device, but could also include storage on an external device or in the cloud. The considerations for electronic storage are very much the same as those outlined for hard copies. Particular attention needs to be paid to data security with electronic versions. For hard copies, the security of your documents is more tangible – you can see them, there is one version, and you can control access to them more directly. Having electronic versions of documents can make retrieval and storage of the data a lot easier to manage. But, without the proper security, electronic versions can be compromised, copied, and distributed in a matter of seconds.
Each of the options to store and protect documents, both for hard copies and electronic copies, has its advantages and drawbacks. The level of security, ease of retrieval, and cost of storage are some of the key attributes you should consider for each.