Business essentials

Effective record management indispensable

Fire can rip through company records

The recent fire that broke out at the Polokwane Magistrates Court, destroying not only the building but computers and court documents, highlights the importance for any organisation to implement effective records management and information protection procedures to avoid the financial, operational and reputational repercussions of loss or damage to critical information in the event of a fire.

This is according to Leon Thompson, general manager of Metrofile Records Management: Pretoria, a group company of JSE-listed Metrofile Holdings Limited, who says failure to securely store and back-up critical records means the organisation has to rebuild its database from scratch in the event of it being destroyed by a fire.

“Reconstituting this information and records could take months, or even years, which can have a potentially devastating impact by delaying, hindering or even permanently ceasing operations.”

Statistics from the UK Home Office reveal that 30% of all businesses that suffer from a major fire shut down within a year and 70% fail within five years. In addition to this, since 2000 there has been a 24% increase in the total cost of fire in the UK totaling £7.7bn (R108 billion) worth of financial losses.

“Fire poses one of the biggest threats to any organisation that deals with documents on a daily basis. The legal system in particular faces a particularly high risk of losing vital documents and evidence needed for legal cases. Therefore, it is imperative that institutions such as court houses incorporate effective risk management programmes to protect these assets accordingly,” says Thompson.

He says that should an organisation have no data storage and recovery plan in place the potential business repercussions include, among others, financial losses, damage to brand reputation, costly litigation, job losses and total business inoperability. “Data is unquantifiable and therefore extremely difficult to insure, making it impossible to recover any financial losses.

“Organisations have two options; onsite or offsite records management. Companies that need immediate access to documents and records have no choice but to store them onsite, the key lies in implementing an effective back-up solution and storing the documents in a secure environment that can protect the records from damp, fire and water damage as well as insect infestation. Essential to this solution is effective fire detection systems.”

Thompson says offsite records management is becoming increasingly popular due to the space constraints of storing records onsite as well as the costs involved in implementing the effective security measures needed to securely store records, including fire detection and prevention.

“Offsite records management entails the storage of company data and information in purpose-built facilities incorporating data protection which involves the securing of a backup data tape in an off-site vault. The location of storage facilities are specifically situated in low-risk areas where exposure to flooding, fires, earthquakes, flight paths or other natural disasters are least probable.”

Thompson says that a combination of both physical and online data backup provides the most comprehensive backup storage system. “The online disaster recovery site continuously mirrors the information stored on the records management storage system to avoid loss of data due to data corruption.

“Closure as a result of loss or damage to company data and information is becoming increasingly prevalent, yet this risk is so easily mitigated,” concludes Thompson. 

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