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The correct storage of files is a necessary and potentially troublesome task for both businesses and individuals.

Although this is mostly a problem facing businesses who are obliged by law to keep certain documentation, individuals that keep archives or simply gather a lot of paperwork also need to carefully consider their document storage.

For whatever reason you need to store files, a little care and attention at the storage stage can save you a lot of pain in the long run. This article describes the dos and don’ts of proper file storage.

Storing Files Properly

Much of proper file storage is just plain old common sense, and mistakes can be avoided by following a few simple guidelines.

The following tips and hints will go a long way to ensuring your paperwork is safely stored and will remain in good condition.

1.    Start with the basics – Always use top quality boxes and packing materials

It is tempting to save a few Euros and go for cheaper storage boxes and packing materials. After all, they are only going to be lying in storage; what’s the worst that can happen.

The worst that can happen is that you return to your file storage to find a collapsed heap of boxes and documents strewn all over the floor.

Documentation is heavy, and cheaper boxes tend to be flimsy and inadequate for the task. A little more money on quality packaging boxes and materials is the first step to proper document storage.

2.    Make sure documents are dry

This doesn’t mean tackling every document with a hairdryer; however, a little precaution is required if documents that arrive from damp workshops or sites are placed straight into storage.

A little dampness can do a lot of damage to paperwork, mould and mildew can quickly spread to adjoining documents, and in the worst cases, this can destroy valuable paperwork.

3.    Consider the storage environment

For similar reasons, it is important not to store important documents in damp environments. Paper and damp simply don’t get on, and a damp environment will quickly degrade documents.

Similarly, the temperature of the storage area should be considered. Ideally, documents should be stored at a reasonably consistent temperature. Anything around normal room temperature is considered the optimum.

For more sensitive and important documents, it is a good idea to consider storage in a climate-controlled environment.

4.    Label Boxes Properly

Inadequate labelling is perhaps one of the most common mistakes, as it is very easy to abbreviate labelling when preparing files for storage. However, this can lead to a lot of head-scratching a few years down the line when searching through boxes of archives for that all-important tax document.

Proper labelling that accurately describes the content of each box and the appropriate dates can save a lot of frustrating searching in the future. Start with a system that uses a consistent methodology of naming, categorising, and dating of boxes. Also, ensure that a record of the method used is kept and that future archiving adheres to the same method.

5.    Don’t be tempted to overstack

Stacking boxes high may save space in the short term but has long-term consequences. Firstly, the process of retrieving heavy boxes from the top of tall stacks can cause injuries.

However, that’s only if the stack is still standing!

In many cases, people have returned to their document archives to find stacks of boxes that have collapsed simply because the bottom boxes cannot support the weight. Always ensure that the storage space used for document archives is large enough to fulfil your needs without your document stacks reaching for the skies.

6.    Plan your storage space

Try to plan your storage to make documents easier to retrieve when they are required. Knowing exactly where in the unit to look for payroll documents, for example, will make document retrieval easy.

It is also a great idea to keep documents that may need to be retrieved more frequently in more accessible areas, whereas less important documents can be stored where they are less easily accessible.

7.    Prune your files before storing them

Another common mistake is to store everything, whether required or not. However, space is money and simply pruning unnecessary documents while organising your file storage can save you money and make files easier to find and organise.

The temptation is always to err on the side of caution and archive every little slip of paper, and certainly, where there is doubt, this is a good plan of action. However, much of a business’s documentation can be quite happily disposed of without the need to archive.

8.    Security is paramount

Documents might not hold much monetary value, but the information in them can be devastating to a business if they fall into the wrong hands. Also, a consideration here is the subject of data protection. Companies have a responsibility to ensure that sensitive information about employees and customers is protected.

Inadequate security precautions can lead to sensitive company information falling into the wrong hands and also cause firms to be in breach of data protection laws.

9.    Use a self-storage unit

Smart businesses often use self-storage units to archive their documents. Self-storage units offer a cost-effective and versatile solution. Most of the time a self-storage unit will work out cheaper than on-premises storage when you compare them on a cost by square metre basis.

But the cost isn’t the only benefit. Self-storage units are secure, scalable to suit your needs, convenient for loading, and climate-controlled units are also available.

Summing up

Properly stored documents will last for at least as long as you are ever likely to need them. However, as many firms have found to their cost, improperly stored documents can lead to a lot of wasted time, expense, and in some cases, legal action.

U Store IT can help you avoid all the headaches associated with file archiving by providing cost-effective file storage solutions. We have facilities throughout Ireland, so no matter where your business is based, we can help.

Why not contact us today and find out more about our self-storage for documents solutions.