On this page, you’ll find out more about:
- Document archiving services
- Scanning and archiving services
- Retrieving and deleting information
- Retention periods
- Choosing a trusted archiving service
What are document archiving services?
Businesses use document archiving services to store, manage and track documents they must keep for commercial or legal purposes, but which they no longer need regularly.
Document archiving services are provided by specialist companies, and the scope of what they offer varies. A standard document archiving service will provide the following:
- Document collection and delivery
- Document indexing with records and information management software
- Scanning service—documents are scanned before they’re archived so digital versions of the documents can be retrieved and emailed when requested
- Document disposal and/or recycling services—some companies choose to have their paper documents destroyed or recycled after converting them to a digital format
- Document storage, usually in archive boxes on secure premises
- Digital document retrieval
- Paper document retrieval and delivery service
What can be archived?
As well as paper documents, many other items can be archived, such as:
- photographs, negatives and slides
- textiles (such as wedding dresses or baby clothes)
- newspapers and magazines
Despite the prevalence of digital photography, many people still have printed photos, negatives and slides that they want to keep. Archiving companies can scan photos into digital format and/or store existing photos, negatives and slides to preserve them for future generations to enjoy.
It isn’t just personal photographs that can be put into storage. Businesses such as media companies and professional photographers can also benefit from freeing up space by archiving print copies of their images.
With Russell Richardson's archiving services, you can store any of the items outlined above securely in the same place.
What are the benefits of using a document archive service?
- Save space—free up valuable space in your office by moving bulky archive boxes off-site
- Increased security—documents are held on secure premises and can only be accessed by authorised personnel
- Increased control—documents are continually tracked, so they can’t be misplaced and can’t be retrieved or changed without this being recorded
- Improved organisation and productivity—employees can easily find and access the documents they need
- Flexibility—you can archive all of your documents or just certain files, such as invoices or HR records for example. Paper and digital documents can be stored as part of the same system
- Safety—documents are protected from fire and flood damage
- Obey the law—ensure you’re always complying with your industry’s file retention regulations
The benefits of scanning and archiving services
Document archiving companies usually offer two kinds of scanning service:
- Paper documents are scanned before they’re put into storage so digital formats can be easily retrieved and sent to clients. The paper documents are then destroyed and recycled, or are kept in storage.
This option is a great choice for offices looking to go paperless as entire archives can be digitalised. Storing documents in this way means you’ll have online access to and complete control over your documents via document storage and management software.
- Paper documents are archived and, when requested, individual documents are scanned and the digital copies emailed to clients. Once a client receives the digital document, the physical document can be re-archived or destroyed. This is known as a Scan on Demand service.
Why is scanning documents important?
Scanning documents, either when they’re archived or when they’re requested, has multiple benefits:
- Documents are readily available and can be delivered to clients digitally, rather than physically, which can be a slower and more expensive option.
- Compared to archiving paper documents, digital documents are quicker to find and track, which can save valuable time.
- Scanning documents increases security as digital documents can be encrypted and password-protected before they’re sent through to you, adding further security.
- Many archiving services use ‘cloud storage’ software, which gives you direct access to your documents from wherever there is an internet connection.
Scanning and archiving from Russell Richardson
Russell Richardson provides a Scan on Demand service. Just ask us to retrieve a document and we’ll scan it and email it over to you securely.
Using a Scan on Demand service can save time and money compared to scanning an entire archive in one go, especially as many of the documents that get scanned may never be requested.
Scan on Demand also means you’ll have the original paper documents on hand if required.
How you retrieve information will depend on how it’s stored:
If you’ve used a scanning and archive service
If you’ve used a Scan on Demand service
All of your documents will have been scanned before being archived, so you’ll receive copies of the documents you request in a digital format, usually encrypted and password-protected.
You’ll receive digital copies of just the individual documents you’ve requested. These will usually be encrypted and password protected before they’re sent.
In both cases, you’ll usually have access to your documents via an online portal so you can retrieve documents yourself or request them.
Paper files will usually be given their own unique barcode then filed in barcoded boxes and put into storage. You can use this barcode system to request a document and the archiving company will locate the file and deliver it to you.
The delivery will be fully tracked and, for maximum security, the document will only be delivered to a named contact. Once you’ve finished with the document, the archiving company will collect it and re-archive it or destroy it if you decide you no longer need the paper copy.
Document retrieval from Russell Richardson
We provide a highly secure Scan on Demand service and a paper document retrieval service, supported by O'Neil barcode record storage and management software.
When you choose Russell Richardson your dedicated account manager will provide full training on how to use the O’Neil software, and be on hand if you need any help.
We collect and deliver documents in tracked vehicles so you’ll know exactly where your documents are at all times. We can drop off and collect your documents at locations and times that suit you.
If you prefer, we can scan your archived paper documents and send them to you in a digital format as part of our Scan on Demand service.
Document archiving software
This software makes locating, tracking and retrieving archived documents as easy and secure as possible, whether they’re in a paper or digital format. As paper documents are scanned, they’re stored as digital copies which can be retrieved easily at any time.
The features that document archiving software provides do vary between systems, but generally include:
- cloud hosting so documents can be accessed from any device with an internet connection
- an online portal to enable you to find and access your documents or request copies of them
- controlled secure access so only authorised personnel can view, amend or retrieve the documents
- the ability to manage both paper and digital documents
- an audit trail to see who has accessed, amended, saved or destroyed documents
Barcode systems are often used alongside archiving software to make tracking individual documents and storage boxes quick and simple.
Document archiving software from Russell Richardson
We use O'Neil record storage and management software, which enables you to search documents, run reports and request retrievals and other services from us, wherever and whenever you want. The software is highly secure and is accessed via multi-factor authentication, meaning a user is only granted access after inputting two or more methods of authentication, so only individuals with permission can access your documents.
The software uses barcode tracking, giving every document and archive box a unique barcode, making indexing, retrieving, tracking and re-archiving straightforward.
Your account manager will show you how to use the software and provide whatever help you need.
Certain business documents have retention periods, meaning they must be kept for a set period of time before being destroyed:
- It’s recommended that PAYE and payroll records are kept for three years from the end of the tax year they relate to
- VAT records should legally be kept for six years
- Trade documents should be kept for four years, although 10 years is recommended in case they’re needed for a criminal investigation
In the medical and legal fields, documents need to be kept for even longer—GP records, for example, should be retained for 10 years after a patient has died. Some legal documents have to be kept for 50 years after the date the case is closed.
You should outline in your company’s records management policy your retention periods for documents other than those you must keep for legal and auditing reasons.
Retention periods from Russell Richardson
You can archive your documents with Russell Richardson for as little or as long as retention periods or data protection law require.
As outlined above, some documents need to be stored for many years, but we also have records put into storage that are close to their destruction date. When records are no longer needed, the team at Russell Richardson can securely shred paper documents, and digital documents can be destroyed and tracked using the O’Neil portal.
How to pick a trustworthy archiving service
There are a number of questions you may want to ask when looking for a trustworthy archiving service:
- What security measures do they have in place?
Ask potential providers what security measures they use to protect the documents they have on-site. Standard security features for storage facilities include:
- CCTV and alarm systems
- fully security checked staff
- tracked delivery vans
- secure disposal of confidential waste
Archiving software should have multi-factor access and be able to fully track when documents have been moved or changed.
- Can they provide references from previous or existing clients?
Ask to see references from companies that currently use their archiving services. You can read testimonials from some of our customers here.
- Are they easy to contact and have responsive customer service and support?
If you have a problem or need help, it’s important to know that you can easily get in touch with the archiving services company. Russell Richardson has a dedicated account manager for each client, so our clients know who to contact if they need help.
- Do they charge exit fees?
It’s standard practice for archiving service companies to ask new clients to sign a contract. Many archiving companies charge exit fees for customers to get their documents out of storage or to move them to another supplier.
At Russell Richardson we don’t have exit fees as we don’t agree with charging customers to get their documents back. We trust that our service levels will keep customers from moving.
- Are they members of recognised industry groups?
Although archiving companies aren’t regulated, there are a number of things you can look out for to ensure the company you choose can be trusted. These demonstrate that the archiving company meets certain standards.
Russell Richardson is a member of PRISM International (Professional Records and Information Services Management). We maintain and are certified in the following ISO standards:
- ISO 9001:2008—Quality Management Systems
- ISO 14001:2004—Environmental Management Systems
- ISO 27001:2013—Information Security Management Systems
We also hold the British Standard BS OHSAS 18001 2007—Occupational Health and Safety Management System.
- What added extras do they provide?
Before you agree to use an archiving service, find out exactly what’s included. Some companies just offer a place to store archived documents, similar to self-storage facilities, which don’t offer any security features.
As well as storing documents, a good archiving company should also offer secure indexing, retrieval, scanning, and collection and delivery services, plus useful extras such as providing storage boxes.
You can find out more about records management by reading our best practice guide to records management here.
Our guide to paper shredding services covers everything you need to know if you’re planning on having any documents securely destroyed after they’ve been scanned and archived.
If you’re not sure what type of box you need to store your documents, read our guide on how to choose a quality archiving box.