Wadih founded PairSoft and PaperSave, and he currently advises non-profits on business process improvement and technology.View all posts by Wadih Pazos
Wadih Pazos • June 30, 2014
But what happens to all of those valuable and sensitive paper documents? Businesses cannot simply toss these stacks of paper in the recycle bin or trash and be done with it. Thieves and competitors are just waiting for an opportunity to get their hands on this content, so it is imperative that companies take the precaution of disposing information properly.
Firms may not know that once material is put in the trash, it is no longer considered private in the eyes of the court, Angie’s List contributor Rebecca Taylor reported. Businesses that expose trade secrets or customer information may experience irreparable harm to their brand.
The paper shredder is a tried and true option that comes in handy for businesses transitioning to a paperless office. However, there is a right and wrong way of selecting a shredder, according to Taylor. Some equipment only cuts documents into horizontal strips wide enough that individual words or even sentences are legible. Organizations should opt for a cross-cut solution that makes it more difficult for someone to put the document back together.
Companies accumulate massive amounts of documents over the years, ranging from corporate-generated data to consumer information. There is so much content that must be looked over for businesses going paperless it can be challenging to determine the best place to start. American Data Guard’s Mike Quinn suggested that organizations shred any documents that contain passwords, Social Security numbers, account credentials, addresses, birth dates, health information, signatures and personally identifiable content.
“As an employer/owner of a company you also have possession of most of this personal information of your employees. This is a huge liability and should be a major concern. As an employer what should be shredded – everything – once the document has exceeded its retention schedule. The retention schedule for corporations should be developed by the organization and should reflect specific industry standards and potential liability issues,” Quinn wrote.
As highlighted above, simply tossing paper documents in a shredder is not always feasible when there are so many standards to abide by. There is no shame in a company admitting it needs some outside assistance to dispose of content, and there are plenty of resources available to limit potential challenges.
Quinn indicated that data retention schedules vary between industries, so insurance, tax, financial, employee, profits and business records require different approaches. Companies unsure of how to dispose of this information should contact a bank, auditing professional or document shredding provider.
The effort of going paperless pays off big time in the long run. Now, employees no longer have to shuffle through a filing cabinet to find an important document. Taylor explained that staff members can simply perform a computer word search to find the information. Businesses themselves also benefit greatly from ridding themselves of filing cabinets and turning storage space into more practical real estate.
A lot of threats permeate a building that put employees and documents in harm’s way. There is also a safety-related reason for moving to a paperless office. Taylor noted keeping too much paper on-site is a fire hazard.