Vital records protection: know the risks and take precautions

Published: Friday, 19 March 2021 11:09

Protection of vital company records is a cornerstone of business continuity and failure in this area can irreparably harm the organization. Dave Hochman explains why, when protecting vital records, organizations shouldn’t forget about older forms of protection in the rush to digitalization.

As new technologies roll out and business cultures and practices change, the prevailing methods and mediums for storing information and data change as well.

Vital records can be stored in several important ways.  As paper files they can be stored in secure, UL-rated protective cabinets; and in electronic format they can be stored on magnetic tape or disk.  With today’s technology advances, these same files can now be uploaded to cloud-based storage repositories.

When it comes to protecting these records, cloud storage systems leverage a variety of resources to ensure that robust security measures are in place. This is analogous to locking up the filing cabinet: however, no digital system is 100 percent hacker-proof (yet). Even though an organization’s vital records may be uploaded to a server located virtually anywhere, that does not mean those records are all adequately protected. As can be seen daily in the news headlines, company data and systems being used by many major organizations are being hacked, and at an alarming rate.

Organizations need to recognize that cloud storage is not infallible and for vital records a belt and suspenders (belts and braces for UK readers!) approach is necessary. Belt-and-suspenders is a term that means ‘employing multiple methods or procedures to achieve a desired result especially out of caution or fear of failure’. Organizations need to reduce their exposure to data breaches and hacking, so there must be strong contingency measures in place to back up cloud-based digitally stored vital records.

According to Paul Kirvan, an independent resilience consultant, “The easiest, least-expensive, and quickest-to-implement method is to store vital records in secure, UL-rated fireproof filing cabinets.” In other words, securely store old-fashioned paper-based vital records on-site. To be clear, advising that paper files stored in fireproof containers as a disaster recovery measure is intended as a supportive backup to cloud - rather than a replacement. It is also worth pointing out that some paper documents are unsuitable for transfer digitization, such as those that require the original signature, or historically significant items that can’t be replaced. For these latter examples, using fireproof containers will be the primary protective measure.

“When properly stored in a secure, fireproof container,” said Kirvan, “the risk of unauthorized use and potential damage to hard copy vital records can be dramatically reduced.”

Organizations and professionals who are responsible for protecting vital records have reached the conclusion that the cloud has both advantages and disadvantages as far as vital records protection is concerned. When it comes to vital records protection, the discussion centers around what organizations can (and should) do to lessen their exposure to cloud-based risks. Once a record has been identified as vital, the key action item is to provide protection against threats of theft and destruction. To rely solely on a third-party cloud solution to protect data may not be an acceptable risk.  Anything deemed vital that is stored in the cloud should also be stored physically in a secure, fireproof container. Simply shifting responsibility for vital records protection to the cloud service provider is not sufficient.

The author

Dave Hochman is the founder of DJH Marketing Communications Inc., a B2B focused PR and digital content marketing consultancy. Follow Dave on Twitter @davehochman