All organisations have critical documents that they cannot afford to lose.
As firemen fought a four-hour battle to bring a blaze under control in Durban's 32-storey Seaboard Hotel, and three helicopters airlifted 70 people from the roof on Monday 25 June, police dockets and computers belonging to detectives of the Point Police Station went up in smoke on the eleventh floor.
It could have been a minor catastrophe to the justice procedure in the region, but the savvy detectives had backed up their information and have already begun creating official duplicates admissible in court. A police spokesperson said the dockets, dealing with serious cases involving drugs, fraud and murder, had been preserved in police systems and were being reconstructed to bring criminals to justice.
Dockets are critical records for the South African Police Services (SAPS) that they cannot afford to lose. If they should permanently lose them, cases are thrown out of court and criminals escape justice. Keeping them safe is an essential task.
All organisations contain critical documents that they cannot afford to lose and, as shown by the fire at the Seaboard Hotel, they should take necessary precautions to protect them.
There are a number of approaches organisations can take, but first and foremost they need to identify which of their documents are important to continued operations. Establishing that is the most important part of the process. Qualify unnecessary record types as important and the process becomes onerous, expensive and bloated. Fail to qualify important documents, however, and operational risk increases.
Determine retrieval requirements
Most organisations keep the wrong information, they keep too much of it, for too long and in the wrong place. Knowing how and where to store information makes it eminently more accessible. In broad terms, organisations need to determine the retrieval requirements for various record types. This illuminates the most appropriate storage location: onsite storage facilities that range from filing cabinets in offices and the basement, to specialised local storage rooms, or offsite storage at company-owned and operated sites or with more cost-effective specialised outsource partners.
Companies must retain many records and documents but very few have custom-designed facilities and people trained in proper records management to effect that. They need to constantly balance the requirement to retain records with ensuring they keep them at the most cost-effective location.
The National Archives and Records Service Act governs the proper management and care of government records, maintains an archive and promotes efficient, accountable and transparent government from proper care and records management.
Government departments must implement records management programmes to meet legislative requirements and improve departmental efficiency. Both active and archive records need to be protected in a defined and legislated manner. It protects them from disasters, just as the Point Police Station detectives averted through their proper backup procedures.
Public and private organisations need to manage risk. Managing information risk means ensuring that the correct processes are employed to meet regulations and ensure safe and continued operations.
Paul Mullon, information governance executive at Metrofile