Security matters

Sponsored by Fellowes
Safeguarding your future.
When you take stock of your business assets, you will likely tally up your office space, desks, chairs, filing cabinets, computers and inventory. You may even have company vehicles and money in the bank. But all those tangible items aren’t much good without your most valuable asset – proprietary business information. And if you leak information your business will sink.

The costs of a security breach come in many guises. Equipment like stolen or lost laptops or phones may need to be replaced. Customer notification takes time and money, and you may need to offer – and pay for – credit monitoring services. A breach pulls your company’s focus away from your core work and requires you to shore up your security procedures or formulate and implement a completely new security plan.

It’s imperative that every business evaluates its security plans and policies. This encompasses everything from the locks on the doors of your office to the anti-spyware software installed on individual computers. It involves you and your employees working together on a clear mission to build and maintain a secure office.

A proactive approach is vital, particularly when it comes to paper documents that can easily be overlooked when you’re focusing on digital security measures. Paper applications filled out by employees, email attachments that have been printed out and even handwritten notes about your competition all require protection.

Handling all of this information is a challenge for every business; that’s why crafting a document management policy is such a necessity. Having a formal plan in place helps your company retain the files it needs and clear out the ones it doesn’t. It can also prevent the confusion that arises from having multiple versions of a document. Documents are important business assets that need rules for classification, security and disposal. A diligently applied set of policies protects you both legally and ethically.

Use templates for common documents like time sheets, contracts, invoices and letters. Even if you have multiple employees generating such documents, you’ll be able to easily classify records together. Require a date or time stamp to differentiate between different versions of a document and to help keep your files in correct order. Consistent filing practices for both electronic and paper documents make later retrieval a simple task. Keep a record of where files are located and if they are available in paper format, digital format or both.

Trace the life of the data that you keep, both electronic and on paper. Whether it originates from forms on your site or from handwritten records at your office, evaluate where along the line it could be vulnerable and take the necessary steps to safeguard it.

Employee training
Employee training is absolutely key when it comes to implementing a successful document management policy. Maintain a written policy and educate your workers on what types of documents should be stored and/or destroyed. A standardised policy applied across the board takes the guesswork out of the process. And when it’s time to purge your company, customer and employee records, you’ll be able to do it thoroughly and in compliance with applicable laws.

Establish guidelines for the retention of company records based on what makes sense for your business. There are some general guidelines that can be followed for certain types of information.

The Fair Labour Standards Act in the US, for example, requires that employers keep payroll records for at least three years. Financial and tax records should be kept until any possibility for an audit has passed; ten years is reasonable.

If you offer products with a lifetime warranty, keep your sales records indefinitely. Set up regular reviews where you inventory and purge documents, both electronic and paper. A biannual or quarterly review is a good starting point for most businesses.

Next, take inventory of your proprietary information and data – from employee records and market research reports to legal communications and tax records. This information is the lifeblood of your business, and customers and employees trust you to keep it safe.

Dispose – safely and securely
There are plenty of sensible alternatives to simply throwing documents in the trash, placing them with the recycling or letting them stack on a desk. To safely store reports, files and other critical information on site for a certain amount of time, keep files locked away in a secure location.

When it comes time to clear out old files, pay special attention to any documents that have social security numbers, financial details or tax records. It’s hard to know exactly what documents might be valuable to identity thieves, snoops or competitors. If you’re not sure, shred it.

Once you have an overall security and document management policy in place, it’s time to focus on how to dispose of documents and outdated CD and DVD data backups. Follow these guidelines to pick a shredder that is a good fit for your business needs.

Often, a combination of shredders is the best solution. Basic specifications to consider are the number of sheets that can be shredded at a time, how many sheets need to be shredded per day and the capacity of the bin.

A deskside shredder is a compact and affordable machine designed to handle the needs of a single person or a home office. Prices can range from around $100 for a light-duty personal shredder for occasional use to $500 for a shredder with more features and the ability to handle a bigger workload.

You may choose to set up a deskside shredder in the cubicle or office of any employee that handles sensitive information which needs to be disposed of immediately and privately. Your document management policies may require several deskside shredders working in conjunction with a larger commercial shredder.

Commercial shredders – which can cost up to a few thousand dollars, depending on features – are designed to handle a higher volume of paper. These are ideal for departments, workgroups, offices and warehouses where multiple users need to shred documents or where there is a high volume of sensitive paper.

Law offices, accountants and businesses in the financial and health industries are just a few of those that may want to opt for a commercial shredder. A commercial shredder will generally have a large wastebasket to hold a lot of paper and can handle staples and small paper clips making the process even faster.

Before investing in a shredder, do some research to familiarise yourself with the different features available.

For instance, for deskside shredders, technologies like Fellowes 100% Jam Proof shredders prevent overfeeds and time-consuming jams. Also, look for an ultra-quiet operation feature if the deskside shredder will be used in a cubicle or open office environment.

When it comes to commercial shredders, the number of users is important. Look for shredders that are built to perform without interruption for multiple users. Sheet capacity, speed, bin size and continuous duty run times ensure that the job is completed as quickly as possible.

Also, consider basket capacity and the availability of anti-jamming features. Don’t waste valuable staff time by them having to clear a jam or empty the basket too often.

For high security applications, look for a shredder that meets the NSA/CSS Specification 02-01 for High Security Cross-Cut Shredders.

Without question, shredders are a must-have business machines accessory for every office today. They not only support your company’s security policy, but also help you run a lean organisation, allowing you to focus on other important business matters.

A shredder also makes it easy for employees to do their jobs efficiently and comply with security policies effectively.

Customers, too, benefit from your investment in a shredder. They share their personal and financial information with your business with the understanding that you will protect it. When your document management policy includes the use of shredders, it reassures customers and clients, who are increasingly sensitive about issues such as identity theft and credit card fraud. Shredding documents is the ultimate assurance that their information won’t fall into the wrong hands.

Backup solutions
Security breaches, hardware failures and natural disasters are all unexpected events, but you can still prepare for them. If your business were to face such a scenario, would you be able to pick up quickly from where you left off with your customer records still accessible and your valuable business information within reach?

For many businesses, the damage could be irreparable. That’s a strong indication you need to take some extra steps to handle whatever situation you may encounter.

In terms of backing up digital data, there are a variety of methods available to businesses. Options can be narrowed based on budget and your business’ specific backup needs. If you back up your data to CDs, DVDs or other removable media, don’t leave them lying around the office.

Any disaster that takes out your computers could also impact your backup disks/tapes. Establish a policy that requires you to take them to an off-site location, but avoid leaving them in a vehicle that could be broken into; for sensitive data, use encryption software.

Hard drives do die, and they rarely give warning. Online backup services can be an effective option for smaller operations or if you need to back up laptop files away from the main office. Web-based applications have become more powerful over the past few years. You have many options for moving mission critical needs like CRM, email marketing, document creation and project collaboration to the web.

There’s no reason you can’t take a few steps toward that paperless office we’ve heard so much about. Digitising your paper data can make a lot of sense when it comes to protecting and backing up information.

The tools you need may already be sitting in your office. Many all-in-one office printers already include scan capabilities and scan-to-file-folder functionality. You can also pick up a standalone scanner to dedicate to this sort of task.

Automatic document feeders on many multifunction printers can make quick work of long documents. Optical character recognition software automatically translates your papers into searchable, editable files. Once your papers are in a digital format, you’re free to implement even stronger security measures in the physical world.

With your papers scanned and backed up, you can choose to shred your paper trail. The fewer sensitive documents you have lying around or taking up office space, the better.

Running a responsible business
When you protect your business information, you are also protecting your reputation and relationships with employees and customers. In a competitive business environment, you need to do everything you can to differentiate yourself from others.

Having a comprehensive security policy and document management policy gives you an advantage over those that neglect this important and pressing need. It shows customers you operate a responsible and ethical business that cares as strongly about their information as they do.

Once you’ve built security awareness into your business, you can spend less time worrying about where potential threats are coming from and more time focusing on your core business.

Naturally, there will always be a component of ongoing education about security as hackers and thieves devise new methods for stealing information. But if you prepare to be flexible, keep up on the latest security news and revisit your document management and security policies on a regular basis, you’ll be able to run a secure operation that is protected from both internal and external threats.