Paperwork – what to keep and what to chuck

Man trying to decide whether to keep a piece of paper or throw it awaySometimes it feels like, despite the fact that we’re living in a so-called digital world, we are surrounded by really quite stupid amounts of paper. Receipts, invoices, records of all shapes and sizes, forms, statements – you get the picture.

It’s tempting to take a Marie Kondo minimalist approach to it all and get rid of anything that doesn’t “spark joy” (in other words 100% of the contents of most filing cabinets). But sadly there are times when it is important to embrace your inner hoarder and keep hold of stuff for a year or 40.

Here are a few examples of things you might have lying around at work or at home, and whether you can bin them or not.

COSHH records

Unless your COSSH records have reached the grand old age of 40, you’re going to have to keep them. It’s the law. You may not want to look at them all that often (and who’d blame you) but do make sure they’re secure. If you don’t have a suitable archive room, sort yourself out with document storage faclity that is alarmed, monitored and environmentally controlled like ours. We can even scan or courier documents back to you within a few hours if you’re desperate for something to cure your insomnia.

Photos of yourself from the 80s

We can safely say that unless you’re Kylie Minogue, Charlie Sheen or Eddie Murphy, the 80s probably weren’t all that kind to you. So if that particular photo album happens to catch fire, don’t be too quick to grab the extinguisher. Alternatively, you could put them up around the house as an example to your children, proving that the “sheer dresses” and “statement socks” they think are so TD (ie. “to die”, which is the modern, lazy form of “to die for”) are going to make them blush when they’re in their 40s.

Contractor time sheets

OK, so this one has two answers. Once they’ve been transferred to your accounting system, contractor time sheets should be kept for a year. However, if they’re needed for revenue purposes then you legally have to keep them for six years. If you’re likely to need to access to them quickly, you can either get them scanned and stored off site or make sure your document storage company offers a same day courier service (hint: we do).

Instruction manuals

So you got a snazzy new camera / phone / George Foreman grill and it came with an instruction manual as thick as an average bible. Do you shove it in a filing cabinet so that, should the fuse blow, you know exactly how to replace it? No, you do not. This is 2018 folks. Instruction manuals are accessible online. Just Google the model number of the item in question and you’ll find either an official copy on the brand’s website or, at the very least, a scanned version that some do-gooding soul has thought fit to post as a PDF somewhere.

Quotes

This is another one with two answers. If a quote has been successful then you need to keep hold of it until it’s paid and has been audited. But if it’s been unsuccessful, you should hang on to it for a year. Which seems unfair really – kind of making you relive that failed bid for 365 days. “You lost, sucker – someone else got the deal!” Not nice.

Old love letters

Well now this is a tricky one. On the one hand, if they’re from a previous relationship to the one you’re in now, you might want to ditch them. Having said that, they could form the basis of that romantic novel you’re planning on writing in your retirement under a flouncy pen name, so perhaps it’s worth hanging onto them. Just make sure they’re hidden discretely away.

Whatever documents you need to keep, we’re happy to help. Just call one of the team for a quote – we’ll do all the rest, including providing the boxes, doing the packing and transporting everything to our Bridgwater site.

3 catastrophic business disasters and how to avoid them

No one ever expected the Spanish Inquisition, or so they said. Which is silly really, since the Spanish Inquisition were clearly renowned for popping up out of nowhere and causing mayhem. They may not be around today but there are plenty of other dangers to watch out for if you’re in business today, and in this week’s post we thought we’d work through just a few – and add some ideas about what to do to ensure you don’t face them. Because the best way to deal with disaster is to avoid it. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Deadly data breaches!

Ok so this has always been a thing but since the advent of GDPR the results can be even more catastrophic. These days if someone harvests data from your old tech equipment (not just computer hard drives but things like photocopier and scanner drives), breaches your online security or breaks into your archive room like an old fashioned sneak thief with a bag of swag, you’re looking at a fine that could reach into the millions.

The solution: Store your data securely – for example, in an off-site facility that is alarmed and monitored 24-7 (why yes, we do know of such a place!). And be sure to destroy your data securely, including any sensitive microfiche and microfilm documents, which need special measures to ensure they burn safely.

Crushing cash flow blocks!

We may do most of our transactions online these days but the old adage “cash is king” still holds true. Except we’d probably go with “cash is king or queen” because, you know, equality. For most small businesses – and even a lot of the larger ones – cash flow is a real challenge. Things might look rosy on paper but if the bank manager is on the phone telling you he’s about to cut you off because there aren’t actually any pounds and pennies in your account then you have a problem.

The solution: Because sending the boys round to your debtors with baseball bat is frowned upon in traditional business circles, it’s important to be on top of every penny. Make sure you have all the necessary systems in place and that you can access financial records instantly. That could mean scanning paper documents to create an online database or storing them with a document storage company like us – we barcode all our clients’ documents so they can be found in minutes, and can scan and / or courier hard copies to you straight away.

Fatal fire and flood!

So you might have noticed by now that we get a fair amount of rain in this part of the world. There are pros and cons to our weather, of course. The grass likes it, for a start. And the crops, which is good because it means we have plenty to eat. But there are downsides. Like soggy barbecues, wet dogs and flooding. It’s the latter you’re most likely to be concerned about as a business. And other ‘natural’ disasters like fires, earthquake, volcano eruptions and invasions of killer ants.

Look around your office and imagine it sitting in a meter or more of dirty river water. Or smouldering ash. Or lava. What would be lost? The carpet certainly. Maybe a pot plant or two. Your favourite chair – the one that supports your back in just the right way. And what about your paperwork? If you only have hard copies of your archives then a flood / fire / earthquake can strip you of years of records and make life really very difficult indeed.

The solution: Get them scanned and stored on a secure cloud based system. That way no matter what happens to your office building, your records will be secure. And if you need to keep the hard copies, make sure they’re stored securely in a purpose built unit like ours, which is designed to create as secure a environment for paper documents as is humanly possible.

For help securing your data against potential threat, give one of the team a call today to find out how we can help.

Need some help? Try our scanning calculator!