Archiving Solution and Enterprise Records Management System

Records Governance, Part 2: Can One Solution Manage All Your Archiving Needs?

How many records archives do you have in your organization? It’s likely you store records in a number of different systems. What about your paper records? Stored in another location separately from your digital records. Having all your records managed in different archives makes it very challenging to ensure records governance. The good news is you can manage all your archiving needs, paper and digital, with one system.

Managing Paper Archives

There are two types of records organizations manage: physical (paper) records and digital (electronic) records. Paper records are typically managed separately from digital records, sometimes stored in file rooms within an organization, often stored off-site in specialized archives by commercial records archive companies, such as Iron Mountain. In some cases, an organization might use more than one paper archive vendor to store its records.

Just like digital archives, your organization must ensure paper records are stored securely and safely, and can be easily retrieved when requested. Paper archives also have the same lifecycle process as digital records, which can include long-term archive or disposal via destruction. 

Proper classification and tagging are required to manage paper archives properly. Unfortunately, this is not always done, or done in an inconsistent way, making the management of paper archives challenging.

Managing Digital Archives

Many organizations today have a vast growing volume of digital records to manage. These digital archives are usually managed separately from paper archives. Digital archives are stored within the systems that created them or in a standalone records archive repository, or some combination of the two approaches.

Because digital records often remain within the systems that created them, organizations find themselves manually searching archives to find the records they need and manually applying governance to each managed system. This manual process takes time and is prone to errors because it’s not consistent.

You can simplify this complicated records management process through the use of a centralized records management solution that doesn’t necessarily centralize all the digital records in one physical location, but instead, tracks and manages governance through a single system. A centralized approach to records governance is critical considering the volume of digital records to manage.

A Centralized Approach to Manage All Records

Some organizations might find it works fine to have separate records archive solutions for paper and digital records, but with the growing volume of records to store and manage, these organizations are few.

The best approach to managing all your records – paper and digital – is using a centralized solution. These solutions do exist.

Centralized records archives solutions don’t care where a record is stored, they simply enable you to track all the records you have and manage them holistically, wherever they are located.

A Single Search and Retrieve Function

The benefits of a single records archive solution are many. Probably one of the most important is the ability to search in a single location for the records you need and have a result set returned that crosses all records archives.

Consider wanting to find all the records you have on a customer who has been with your company for many years. Some of these records might be paper-based, stored in an off-site records archive facility. Other records are spread across several different systems within the organization.

Without a centralized records archive solution, a records manager would have to manually go to each system and search for the records they need. Then they would have to contact the off-site archive facility and put in a request for any paper archives related to the customer.

Now consider this. Every system that stores records is classifying the records a little differently. The classification schemes and metadata are applied ad hoc or based on how the initial system was set up. The classification scheme for paper records is also different. It could take days or weeks, even months to find the records you need.

With a centralized records archive solution, a consistent classification and metadata scheme is applied to all records, regardless of location. Searching becomes much easier, and you can be confident you are getting all the records you need. In this system, if the records are electronic, they are simply a click away.

If they are paper, you click a button and have a request send to the paper archive provider to retrieve the records and send them to you.The paper records are automatically sent, and you have a record of who requested them and where there were sent. Even if the paper archives are located with different providers, a separate request is sent to each to retrieve the required records.

For the records manager, it doesn’t matter where the records are located; they simply have a single location to search and get back a complete result set they need.

A Centralized Governance Process

Another key benefit to a centralized records archive is the ability to define and apply governance policies to the entire archive from a single location.

Governance policies include how long to store a record, who has the rights to search for the record, who can view it, request it and so on. Governance policies apply to the entire lifecycle of a record from the time it is created to its eventual disposition (whether that’s destruction or long-term archival).

Also, with a centralized archive, you have one place to update governance policies and ensure they are applied consistently across all records, regardless of location.

A Consistent Content Strategy is Key

For a centralized archive solution to be successful, a consistent, cohesive content strategy is critical. A centralized classification and metadata scheme is very important to ensure that records, digital and paper, have the proper tags and metadata applied.

Searching and retrieving records without a central content strategy approach can’t ensure you will find the right records. Imagine trying to search all your records for a customer that relate to a particular transaction. If the transaction ID is recorded differently in each records system and there is no centralized method that matches up the different ID types, then you will not find the records you need.

Much of the classification process can be automated, especially during record creation and use of the record during its lifetime, but manually tagging is also often necessary to ensure the completeness.

End Note

The volume of records your organization stores is likely enormous and growing bigger every day. This growth is making it harder to manage records, especially through separate manual processes. Whether you have separate archives for digital records or paper archives, there is an easier way to ensure your governance policies are applied and managed – through a central archive solution.

A centralized records archive gives you a single location to track, classify, search and manage governance policies for all your records, improving your ability to retrieve information quickly and ensure company and industry compliance regulations are applied consistently across the company.

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