Why hard copy data storage is so important

As the horizons of our digital landscape continue to expand further and further every day, electronic and digital means of data storage increasingly seem like the obvious choice for businesses and individuals alike. We all know that both have their benefits and downsides, although we tend to care most about which method is the safest and most efficient. In this post, we aim to detail the many benefits hard copy data storage in the digital age. As you will see, storing physical documents often proves not only safer and more secure than digital storage, but also more convenient and flexible. Let’s get stuck in…

Hard copies are needed for authenticity

While switching to paperless storage may have environmental and organisational benefits, sometimes it is simply not an option. For instance, people often need to access and provide hard copies of certain documents for authenticity or identification purposes. In such cases, digital copies may not constitute sufficient proof and physical copies are the only option. Individuals with house deeds, birth certificates, signed contracts, and wills need to guarantee that such documents are in safe keeping and readily accessible. Reproducing them in digital form is certainly recommended, but physical copies are usually essential if they are to be considered valid documentation.

Companies with an abundance of documents which require this level of authenticity should always be keeping physical documents, because you never know when you might need undeniable proof of certain terms or transactions. Indeed, some laws and regulations specify that companies should keep physical documents for a certain amount of time. In these cases, our recommendation is that companies commit themselves to secure hard copy data storage. There is simply no other way to guarantee complete authenticity and remain compliant with the relevant legislative requirements.

Long term storage

In many cases, companies or individuals are required to keep certain documents in storage for years or even decades before destroying them or using them. Whether kept for legal purposes or for personal reasons, storing documents in a physical location is often the only way forward. Technology is constantly evolving and digital forms of document storage are not guaranteed to be around for as long as your documents may require – just look at computers 10 years ago!

Accessing documents via outdated means can be awkward at best and unsafe at worst. However, with hard copy data storage your documents are simply kept in a secure location to be accessed whenever you see fit – no need for technology or complex databases.

The safety and security of hard copy data storage

When you compare the security of hard copy data storage with that of digital copy data storage, physical documents always win. Though neither are easy to access by illegitimate means, electronic documents are more vulnerable due to their existence on computer systems. Malicious data breaches and hacks are unfortunately more common than you might think, especially within bigger companies that store more sensitive information. In such a climate, removing the risk of electronic breaches entirely might just be your best bet.

Total protection of confidential information and sensitive documents can never be guaranteed, but storing hard copy documents instead of relying on digital storage certainly comes close. Anyone attempting to steal, alter, delete, or compromise your data in some way would need to be in the same place as the documents themselves to even have a chance.

As a consequence, keeping your documents in the safest place possible will greatly reduce the likelihood of theft. Storing your papers in a document storage facility would be one way of ensuring this security, although many opt for safety deposit boxes or simple office storage. Whatever you choose, storing physical documents in a safe location are objectively much harder to access than electronic copies sitting in cloud storage or on your hard drive.

Digital scanning can result in flaws

There is always going to be room for error when scanning paper documents for digital storage, especially when done at home and not through a professional document scanning service. Important segments of the paper could be omitted or distorted in the scanning process if you are not careful to do it properly. This makes the prospect of converting all your physical copies into digital ones somewhat more risky.

Of course, knowing how to safely scan documents will help, but keeping physical copies in a secure place is a much simpler option for those who already have a large backlog of papers lying around. If you do choose to digitise your physical papers, make sure to either take great care in the process or hire a professional to do it for you.

Destruction is guaranteed and permanent

When you no longer want an electronic document to exist, permanently deleting it will not do. Even deleted documents remain within hard drives in some form, and even rudimentary hackers have the knowledge and skills necessary to retrieve it. You cannot guarantee total destruction. On the other hand, when you destroy a document with a micro-cut shredder there is absolutely no chance of its remains being found and reconstructed (although as previously covered here, certain types of paper shredding are not secure enough to protect against this risk altogether).

By storing physical copies of your documents you are not only ensuring that they are better protected from being compromised during their storage but also after their eventual destruction. Get in touch with our team today to learn more about our various hard copy document storage services.

Should you hire professional shredding services?

For many companies, the disposal of large amounts of paper causes major logistical problems. When there are simply too many paper documents that frequently need destroying, doing so with the use of regular office shredders can eat up valuable time and effort. As a result, the companies in this position often rely on professional shredding services to cut corners and save time.

These services use industrial-grade shredders to quickly and securely destroy documents in large batches. The shredders are often built into large trucks which travel between several different companies to ensure maximum efficiency. But are professional shredding services right for your company, and how can they benefit your business?

Cutting costs

Outsourcing your shredding will ultimately save your business money. When shredding your documents in the office you need to consider the cost of equipment, parts, maintenance and utility bills. Such costs can quickly rack up in your monthly expenses. Professional shredding services take care of these costly tasks for you. They own the shredders, they maintain the shredders, they run the shredders, and most importantly, they do the shredding.

Shredding is probably not what you are paying your employees to do in the working day. Professional shredding services allow you to release your staff from doing menial tasks so that they can operate more effectively in their roles. Sure, you could try and cut costs by investing in an industrial-grade shredder with the ability to destroy documents in large quantities. But they don’t come cheap, nor will they slot neatly under your desk! Stop paying your employees to shred documents in their valuable working hours. Instead, delegate that cost to a professional service who will get the job done cheaper and quicker.

Saving time

Shredding documents in the office is a time-consuming manual task. It eats up a lot of your employee’s valuable working hours. Conventional office shredders have a low throughput level. This means they cannot handle more than a few sheets at a time, so they are only able to shred documents at a slow pace. Documents need to be cleared of staples and straightened, shredders need to be emptied and oiled, and waste needs to be safely discarded. This process can leave your employees lacking the energy and time they need to effectively do their jobs.

When companies outsource their shredding to an external company, they regain the time it takes to do these menial tasks. Professional shredding services will take care of the whole process from beginning to end. Documents are simply placed in a box for safe keeping until the shredding company picks them up and takes over the entire destruction process. Companies can then rejoice when the productivity of their staff increases!

Efficiency

Due to these money and time saving benefits, professional shredding services are much more efficient than in-house shredding efforts. Why would you keep using clunky office shredders and paying your workforce to do hours of menial work when you can hire outsourced shredders to take over the whole process?

Industrial shredders are more efficient than office shredders. Documents are quickly pulverised by heavy-duty rotating blades so they don’t have to be shredded in small batches over an extended period of time. Indeed, smaller shredding machines are simply unable to handle shredding large amounts of documents without breaking. Office shredders can also only take a small amount of paper per pass. Whereas industrial shredders used by external shredding companies can handle large batches of paper in bulk.

Security

Security and data protection are among the main factors to consider in the shredding process. Shredding confidential documents in the office leaves open the possibility of them being stolen, reproduced, or otherwise compromised. Around 58 data records are lost or stolen every second, and 8% of data breaches in the first half of 2017 occurred as a result of ‘malicious insiders’. Therefore, the importance of securing your documents from theft applies to the storage of shredded paper within your company premises. Many thieves look through company bins used for recycling and waste for sensitive information and confidential documents.

Here at Flexible Storage, we make sure to safely transfer your documents from secure steel stores to our high grade industrial shredders. These both shred and pulverise papers down to a fine grain which cannot be reconstructed. This type of shredding ensures a level of security that cannot be offered by the strip-cut and cross-cut shredders found in most offices. We issue a certificate of destruction for each batch of documents. This means you can keep track of your company’s documents throughout the entire shredding process.

Eco-friendly

Professional shredding services ensure that all of the paper that your company disposes of is recycled and has a minimal impact on the environment. For instance, all of the paper shredded through our services are recycled and pulped at a paper mill for reuse in the form of household paper products. This process helps to reduce the number of trees being harvested and the amount of landfill space being used up.

This will not only ensure the the use of more eco-friendly practices throughout your business. It will also help your business stay compliant with environmental legislation in the UK. Employees and customers will see that your company cares about its environmental impact. This helps bolster your reputation as a greener business.

Furthermore, the security risks associated with leaving shredded paper out in recycling bags are removed altogether. Outsourcing your shredding guarantees that the recycling process takes place in a secured location without the possibility of sensitive data being stolen and compromised.

What documents should you keep?

As many corporations appear to be switching to ‘paperless’ forms of storing or transferring documents, it is necessary not to forget the importance of keeping certain documents in physical form. Both businesses and individuals should make an effort to keep their most important documents safe and secure. Often this safety can only been guaranteed by storing physical copies. Contrary to popular belief, paper is not completely redundant in the digital age!

Although we always make an effort to keep our expensive jewellery and poignant momentos safe, we often neglect to protect equally important things like our wills or our birth certificates. Protecting and storing these documents should be a top priority. Whether you use a home safe, a deposit box, or a rented storage container, the crucial point is that you are safeguarding your papers from being damaged or compromised in any way.

Are you unsure as to which papers you should be looking after and which you should be shredding? Fear not, document storage is our bread and butter! So let’s take a look at what documents you should keep safe in storage.

Legal documents

  • Birth / death / marriage certificates: Make copies of these certificates when you need them for identification but keep the originals in safe keeping. Any copies that you do make should be shredded immediately after they have fulfilled their purpose.
  • Wills and advanced decisions: Make sure that the executor of the will knows exactly where it has been stored. It’s best to have this information available in writing, as you don’t want to risk your will being inaccessible when your executor needs it most.
  • Lasting power of attorney: Ensure that you keep the LPA and any copies somewhere that is safe and accessible for the attorneys. You never know when they will need it.
  • Passports: Keep the original in safekeeping with scanned copies to hand when you need them. You will require your original passport for identification and travel purposes.

Property documents

  • House deeds and bills of sale: These documents are not usually needed until you sell the property to which they pertain, but keeping them safe and organised makes them a lot easier to find when the time comes.
  • Mortgage statements: Should you need to prove that you made all on-time repayments to your mortgage lender, it’s best to keep these as proof of payment for up to a year.
  • Utility bills: Paper copies need only be kept for a few months before you shred them, because almost all utility bills are paperless and available online nowadays.

Financial documents

  • Receipts and warranty documents: Warranty documents should be stored safely until the warranty expires, whereas receipts can be kept for as long as it takes to decide whether or not you are happy with the product or service in question.
  • Bank statements: Like bills, most bank statements are now available in paperless form. So that you have documents to hand should you need to prove anything, you may want to keep physical statements in storage for a few months before shredding them.
  • Insurance policies: These documents should be kept safe for the length of the policy, as replacing them can be a real hassle and some policies need to be located quickly. Policies that you have cancelled or that have expired should be shredded after one year.
  • Bonds: If they haven’t yet been cashed in they should be kept in storage until you do so.

Tax documents

  • Tax returns: Since HMRC have a six year window in which to investigate your taxes, you should keep the original documents for this long to avoid unnecessary problems should this occur. Many advisors claim that even if you do shred the original document, you should always keep a secure copy of your tax returns.
  • Tax receipts: You should also keep the documents relevant to your tax returns for 22 months after the end of the required tax year, including tax receipts and records.

Shredding

Make sure that you shred sensitive and classified documents when you no longer need them, and choose the most secure method of shredding that you can afford. Make a conscious effort to flick through your documents every month and check whether or not any documents need to be shredded because they have expired. If you are in excess of documents that need shredding, as with big corporations and law firms, consider hiring a professional shredding service to destroy your documents in bulk.

Learn more about our document storage services here to see how we can help any business protect their confidential documents, including the legal, financial and medical industries.

London Student Summer Storage: The benefits of holiday self storage for students

Whether you’re a UK student in London heading back to your parent’s house between terms or an international student flying home for the summer, you’ll probably have stuff you can’t take with you.  

As much as you might want to bring your entire wardrobe or book collection home, it’s just not going to be practical. So what are your options?

Leaving your possessions in your student accommodation is ideal if that’s a possibility, but what if you’re moving out? Shipping it all home is handy if you can afford it, but most cash-strapped students in London can’t. So, what’s the next best option?   

Ever Considered Student Summer Self Storage?

Putting your belongings into a self storage unit doesn’t cross the minds of students, but it really should. It’s one of the easiest, safest and often cheapest alternatives to transporting unnecessary luggage from your London university across the UK or even overseas.

If you’re wondering exactly how self storage can help save you stress and money during your term and summer breaks, this post will quickly outline the many benefits of holiday self storage for London-based students.

Lighter luggage

Between terms at university, most students choose to either leave most of their possessions at their accommodation or take most of them home. However, keeping your non-essential items in self storage means that you don’t have to drag them across the country or the world when you go home at the end of term. Doing so will not only make travelling home much easier and lighter, it will also save you a lot of unnecessary stress during a time when you should be relaxing or revising.

Some international students feel that they have no choice but to ship their belongings home during summer holidays. This can not only be extremely expensive, it’s also incredibly inconvenient if you will only be sending them back to your new student accommodation at the end of summer. Self storage allows you to securely store your stuff, all for a fraction of the cost of shipping them home or renting property to keep them in over summer.

Secure belongings

If you’re living in shared accommodation with other people – whether it’s a shared dorm or a shared house – or your uni friends have offered their house for storage, you may not feel comfortable leaving all your possessions unattended when you’re away. Those who do leave them unattended during the holidays may find themselves worrying about their security and privacy. After all, you never know who your friends or housemates might let into the house!

Self storage gives students the comfort of knowing that their possessions are completely secure in a professional storage facility while they’re away from uni. Most facilities (such as Flexible Storage) have high levels of security, with fortified containers and 24hr CCTV to provide a level of security that no student accommodation or traditional ‘lock-up’ could offer.

Less stress for parents

Self storage units for students may also prove to be beneficial for the parents of students. Without excessive luggage and clothing taking up space in their house during summer holidays, parents will be able to enjoy and appreciate these visits without having to worry about tidying up during their stay, or the costs and inconvenience of sending back forgotten goods when they leave. They may also wish to make use of storage companies themselves when their child flies the nest and leaves behind a room full of unused belongings that will only be collecting dust.

No time sensitivity

Whether you’re a domestic student planning a short home visit or an international student leaving London for several months, holiday self storage can always provide a temporary solution for the required amount of time. Most storage companies are flexible with how long people can keep items in their facilities, so there will be no need to return early to collect your belongings when a certain amount of time has elapsed. Instead, you can rest easy knowing that they are in safe keeping and ready to be picked up as and when you need them. With daily, weekly or monthly contracts, this flexibility can help keep your costs to a bare minimum, something that every London student can appreciate.

Peace of mind

Perhaps the most important benefit of summer self storage for students is that it gives you peace of mind during a particularly intense period of your lives – a time where stress and distraction is the last thing you need. When you’re hard at work revising for exams and writing dissertations, you don’t want to be worrying about the safety or transportation of your possessions. Self storage is the best way to remove these worries, quickly, easily, and at an affordable price.

If you’re a student in London and considering your storage options, get in touch with the Flexible Storage team today to find out how our student self storage services can help you this summer.

What are the different types of paper shredding?

The shredders available on the market are differentiated by the way in which paper is shredded, as well as the shape and size of the paper shreds produced. But without knowing what the differences between these functions are, it can be difficult to make a reliable purchase, whether you are buying one for yourself or using a company who provides shredding services.

Generally speaking, the type of shredder you require depends on the materials you will be shredding and the sensitivity of the documents you need to dispose of. Home offices and small businesses use fairly simple shredders for everyday bits of paperwork, companies in the industrial sector use more heavy-duty shredders for cardboards and plastics, whereas legal bodies and governments use sophisticated shredders to ensure that classified documents and sensitive materials are permanently destroyed. In this post, we’ll be considering the differences between these main types of shredding.

Strip-cut shredding

The most common way of destroying documents is with strip-cut shredding (also known as ribbon shredding), a process by which the paper is cut into long parallel strips as they pass through several blades on a horizontal shaft. Strip-cut shredders often present an economical choice for everyday use in the home and office, largely due to their low price and availability. But while this is a simple and accessible method of shredding, it is also known as the least secure.

Highly confidential documents have previously been compromised as a result of the strips being carefully reconstructed and the original document restored. The speed and efficiency of strip-cut shredding makes it the most obvious choice for many, but there is no question that other methods are more suitable if you need to shred sensitive materials. If you do opt for this method of shredding, just bear in mind that the more narrow the strips, the more difficult they are to reconstruct.

Cross-cut shredding

As opposed to simply shredding paper in long vertical strips, the cross-cut shredding method involves vertical and horizontal blades that cut the paper into tiny square (or diamond) pieces.

Cross-cut shredders are able to cut a single sheet of A4 paper into hundreds of pieces: that’s approximately 10x more pieces than strip-cut shredders produce!

Although the relative level of security offered by this method depends on the exact size of the individual shreds (these range from just under half and inch in width to 1/32 inch), this method is undoubtedly a safer option compared to strip-cut shredding. Furthermore, shredders with this function are relatively affordable and widely available, making them a great choice for those who value their security but don’t fancy breaking the bank on more sophisticated equipment. This makes cross-cut shredding a widely recommended type of shredding for the average consumer.

Particle-cut shredding

This kind of shredding (also known as micro-cut shredding) grinds documents down into thousands of miniscule particles using fine-toothed blades. While the above two methods produce shreds that can be reassembled given enough time, particle-cut shredding eliminates this possibility entirely. This makes it the most reliable form of shredding in terms of security.

But security comes at a high price, and the equipment necessary for particle-cut shredding is not easily affordable for the average consumer. As such, it is mainly used by those who regularly deal in highly confidential and top-secret documents (such as government bodies, research facilities, financial institutions). However, some people argue that these shredders should be used by even regular consumers and small businesses. So if you are an average consumer or company and security is a top priority, they are certainly worth your investment.

Pierce-and-tear shredding

This kind of shredding involves multiple heavy-duty rotating blades which pierce the paper while ripping it apart as it passes through to a large holding bin. Shredders with this function are often reserved for industrial purposes where large quantities of paper need to be shredded in a quick period of time. For instance, pierce-and-tear shredding is the method used by shredding trucks when disposing of large documents picked up from several different sources.

This method of shredding can also be used for more bulky materials (e.g. cardboard boxes, thick binders) and do not require materials to be inserted vertically. For this reason, they are installed in factories so that workers can quickly and easily dispose of large quantities of hard wearing materials. Pierce-and-tear shredders are most likely too large and expensive for regular use in offices and homes – not to mention a bit over-the-top!