Paper Versus Digital Records – What’s Your Opinion?

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Electronic Records Day

Paper Versus Digital Records – What’s Your Opinion?

Today is Electronic Records Day. I wish it was Ice Cream Day, but that’s not until July 15 so we will have to make do with what we have. The Council of State Archivists (CoSA) states, “Electronic Records Day is designed to raise awareness among state government agencies, the general public, related professional organizations, and other stakeholders about the crucial role electronic records play in their world.” I’m sure most people know about digital records – not sure why we had to have a day dedicated to raising awareness. Oh well.

Did you know that many organizations store their records in paper format? That may not be a surprise to you, but it was to me. There are pros and cons to each retention approach. Let’s look at some of them. Space requirement is definitely a disadvantage of paper-based retention. Storage can balloon after a few years. At that point, you either get rid of records or store them off site. Processing and storing records can be a bit more cumbersome when using a paper-based approach and can be labor intensive. On the other side of the coin, digital records can be impacted by security breaches or hackers. It also takes considerable manpower and money when first converting to digital formats. Unfortunately, budget constraints prevent many organizations from transitioning to a digital format.

From an end user perspective, many people find it easier to locate information when it is stored on paper. In addition, paper records are typically stored on site, and many find that they are easier to protect than digital files. In an age where digital hacking is prevalent, many corporations and their customers appreciate the fact that people from outside the building cannot access paper records.

The bottom line is to understand your state requirements regarding physical versus electronic records. In either case, you do need a central system to manage record retention. If digital, you need a pretty powerful search engine to retrieve records. For physical, it would be advisable to have a filing system that makes sense and provide training to staff who will be using it.

Good luck in your endeavors and Happy Electronic Records Day! Don’t party too much, it’s a working day tomorrow.

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