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Volume 32, Issue 2

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Whether it's lease agreements stashed in file cabinets or mailing lists on a computer file, your company's records are the heart and soul of your business.

A study by the University of Minnesota concluded that 93% of businesses that lost their data center for 10 days or more filed for bankruptcy within one year. Of those businesses, 50% filed for bankruptcy immediately.

These businesses learned a valuable lesson concerning data and record storage: It's a vital part of business.

'Why take the risk with your computer data?' asked Bill Cannon, president of The Safe Deposit Co. 'Your computer media is far more valuable than the company delivery truck that is usually insured with a $500 deductible.'

'One would not imagine leaving the company plant unprotected by failing to buy insurance to cover unforeseen disasters that could destroy all important physical assets.'

For years, companies attempted to store documents and computer disks internally, but the costs have been high.
Steven Davis, general manager of Data Safe Storage, Inc., said most of his clients have stored their files internally at one time, but they opted for an outside firm when the costs became too high.

'Most companies just run out of space,' Davis said. 'We helped a client that owns a factory that had a 1,000-square-foot room filled with paper files. Once they let us keep their files, they were able to utilize that space by turning it into a production room.'

Thanks to today's technology, some outsourcing firms can take paper files, scan them onto a computer disk and thereby turn a company's large file cabinets into small computer disk holders'making storage much simpler.

No matter what documents need to be stored, professional storage companies have become popular throughout the country. Tragedies like the flood of 1993, the World Trade Center and Oklahoma City bombings, and disasters such as tornadoes and earthquakes have forced companies to seek out record storage companies.

Davis said even firms with two employees have embraced the idea of record storage. 'We have clients that have only two personal computers,' Davis said. 'Why? Because those computers are running the business. These companies can't afford to lose that information.'

Most of the magnetic files stored with professional storage firms are company backup files, according to Davis. 'Storing these backup files in a safe place is crucial,' he said. 'If a disaster strikes, a company can get hardware quickly, but the software took years to develop and will take years to build back up.'

When looking for the right storage company, look for the following:

  • A secure site. Normally a building of steel and/or concrete construction protected by a state-of-the-art burglar alarm system operating around the clock is essential. When it comes to storing magnetic media, stringent environment controls are also essential.
    'It is vital to minimize temperature fluctuations and maintain a temperature of 68 to 72 degrees,' Davis said.
  • Access. Depending on your firm's needs, 24-hour, 365-days-a-year access might be needed.
    'Access to files for routine and emergency service should be defined before commencement of service,' Davis said. 'Rules must be established as to who can have access to files and under what conditions.'
  • Pickup and delivery. One of the main reasons for the growth of record centers can be directly attributed to quick, convenient pick-up and delivery that most record centers offer.
  • Location of facility. High risk areas such as flood zones and tornado lanes should be avoided. The distance between your location and off-site storage has to be far enough apart to protect you against natural disasters. Yet proximity is critical, allowing you convenient and timely retrieval of data. Most companies recommend a distance of at least five miles.

Ron Ameln is a staff writer for the St. Louis Small Business Monthly. Reprinted by permission of the St. Louis Small Business Monthly.
 computer science and was formerly a Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA).