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When it comes to data protection: don’t forget about paper

Published for World Paper Free Day on October 25th 2012, a new study from Iron Mountain suggests that the paperless office remains beyond the reach of many European firms. Paper documents remain important to businesses and are unlikely to disappear from the office environment any time soon. However, the study shows that keeping large paper archives on site is causing problems for many, with overburdened and disorganised filing systems exposing businesses to an increased risk of data loss and damage, and preventing them from harnessing the full value of their information.

The study, which interviewed information leaders in the legal, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, financial services and legal sectors across the UK, Germany, France, Netherlands, Spain and Hungary, found that more than half (58 percent) of firms store the majority of their paper records in a central storage repository on office premises. In many cases, the information is archived in the basement, exposing sensitive customer-related and business critical documents to the risk of flood, mould or rodent damage.

More than half (51 percent) of the companies Iron Mountain surveyed say that the bulk of their important customer communication is stored on paper, yet as many as 45 percent of respondents said their access and storage capabilities were under ‘significant strain’, leaving them unable to retrieve information quickly enough. 37 percent went so far as to characterise their storage capabilities as ‘chaotic’ with little if any discernible structure, with some records placed in storage to never be seen again. Alarmingly, 2 percent of businesses have no structure whatsoever for storing customer communication.

Many companies are deeply concerned about the business impact of their management of paper-based information. Less than a quarter (24 percent), believe that they have the appropriate access to customer information to provide strong levels of customer management. 49 percent are afraid of losing valuable historical documents, and a quarter feel unable to implement an approach to information management that embraces information in paper and digital formats.

“A paperless office may be an unrealistic goal for many but a paper-efficient one is achievable,” believes Christian Toon, head of information risk, Iron Mountain Europe. “Companies do and will continue to create, copy and store paper documents – our research shows that only 1 percent of European businesses have created a paperless environment. We would advise companies not to rush into a digitise-all approach, but to focus on understanding how information is used and then digitising the documents they need to access frequently. Businesses need to shrink the problem and focus resources on their most important documents, such as corporation documents, customer data and business intelligence. The rest of the existing backlog can be stored offsite for an agreed period of time as part of a corporate information responsibility programme.”


•Date: 25th Oct 2012 • UK/Europe •Type: Article • Topic: ISM

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