As anyone who runs a company will tell you, managing the volume of information organizations generate is a challenge. Every business creates physical and electronic documents. Some of those documents are key to the business’s operations and regulatory compliance, and some are ephemeral.

All of it consumes physical or digital space, and businesses need to know what they should keep and where, what they should discard, when they should discard it, and the security and privacy implications of storing a particular document. 

Two processes that help businesses to manage information are document storage and records management. They accomplish distinct objectives, so let’s explore the differences between them. 

What is Document Storage?

Document storage refers to the processes, systems, and services that facilitate the secure storage of business documents. Business information has to be stored, whether in digital or physical form. 

Document storage services provide private, confidential, and cost-effective storage while allowing low-friction access to authorized users. 

Document storage ranges from simple on-premises filing to sophisticated scanning and digital systems, but you can expect the best document storage services to provide:

  • A secure off-site facility to store physical and digital documents. 
  • Document scanning and digital delivery.
  • Fast and accurate physical document retrieval.
  • A software portal for managing and monitoring document access. 
  • Secure document disposal. 

Document storage services empower businesses to move documents off-site and free up expensive office space. Additionally, they help employees to find and access the documents they need, when they need them.  

What is Records Management?

Businesses store many different types of information, but only a subset of that information impacts regulatory compliance and other legal obligations. Regulatory frameworks for many industries impose rules that require businesses to keep documents that provide a complete history of transactions and other operations. 

Documents of this type are usually referred to as records, and they must be stored, retained, and disposed of in compliance with strict rules. 

For example, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires covered entities to retain relevant documents for six years from the day they were created. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act requires that financial auditing and review documents are retained for seven years. Other standards and regulatory frameworks have similar—but not identical—requirements. 

Records management services help businesses to store, manage, and destroy records in compliance with relevant regulations. 

How Does Records Management Work?

Records must be managed throughout the information lifecycle, from creation and capture to destruction. Additionally, there are often chain-of-custody requirements that mean businesses must be able to track how the record was managed throughout its life. In fact, these audit trails are often also considered records.

Perhaps most importantly, different types of records have different retention rules, which may change over time as the regulatory environment evolves. 

Records management services provide many of the same features as the document storage services described above, including secure storage, access controls, and document search and retrieval. But they also include a range of capabilities that facilitate regulatory compliance, including chain-of-custody reports and secure, defensible record destruction in line with regulatory requirements. 

Records Management: Five Key Features

To summarize, let’s look at five key features of record management systems.

  • Offsite Storage — Records are stored in a secure offsite location while remaining accessible when they are required. Physical and digital records are cataloged and categorized so that they can be retrieved quickly and easily.
  • Records management software — The software allows businesses to search for records, add new records, and create reports to explore which records are stored and how they are used. 
  • Compliance management — Records are stored and disposed of in compliance with relevant regulations. Software and processes are continuously updated as regulatory requirements change, reducing the compliance burden on businesses. 
  • Secure chain of custody — Businesses have complete visibility into the location and status of their records at all times. 
  • Secure destruction — When they reach the end of their lifecycle, records are destroyed in a safe and compliant manner, whether by shredding or destruction of storage devices. 

To learn more about how Access’s document, information, and records management services help businesses to reduce costs while easing the burden of compliance, contact an information and records management specialist today