By Frank Hopping, Managing Director of Crown Records Management
(UK and Ireland)

Economic downturns are typically a time when businesses take stock of their assets and reassess areas for cost reduction. One major area of expenditure for many businesses is office and storage space. Whilst some might expect the cost of space to fall significantly during a recession, market information shows that despite the current economic uncertainty average monthly office rents in the UK remain significant, often standing at well over £40 per square foot for prime office space in London. Given that the cost of office space remains high, the natural question many are asking is whether their business could simply use less space or use what they have more efficiently.

One such solution is outsourcing storage. Whereas a typical four-drawer filing cabinet might require 10 square feet of office space, by contrast outsourcing storage of the documents held could cost as little as £1.20 per month. Companies can therefore achieve significant reductions by utilising office space for essentials only and sending other records offsite for storage.

Money is never the only consideration when making strategic spending decisions though - there are wider reasons to consider outsourcing storage, such as security and administrative compliance. Records management policies need to be rigorously endorsed and policed, ideally by a recognised professional, in order to protect companies against the financial implications and reputational damage caused by data losses.

Storing documents off-site in a fully-protected and purpose-built facility also helps guard against the risks of crises such as flooding, fire or IT failure. In such an event, an inability to get back up and running quickly can prove expensive. Therefore, by ensuring that crucial information is backed up and stored in a secure location, companies can significantly improve their chances of being able to return to normal operations as quickly as possible, thus avoiding lost custom and increased costs.

Beyond storing hard copy documents, over the last decade the growth in electronic data has turned the concept of records management on its head. Businesses now face new threats, from hacking to computer hardware theft, so good records management is no longer the sole responsibility of records managers. Indeed, it is now vital that everyone within an organisation, from the CEO to frontline staff, is aware of the need to protect data and understands individual responsibilities in this respect.

Effective records management procedures also protect companies against the legal consequences of information losses. Data breaches can lead to substantial fines, so an audit to ensure data is not retained for longer than needed is well worthwhile.