Storage Guide: Archives
An archive is an organized body of records relating to an organization or institution and it is also the name of the place where these records are kept. Over the past several years archive facilities have cropped up in great numbers around the country. This is due in part to the large number of records being generated by firms and the need to have these records stored correctly and in many cases to meet regulatory requirements. It is also due to the need for offices to be as paperless as possible, something that never really came to fruition even after the invention of the computer when people expected it to.
Customers want easy access so records can be easily retrieved and delivered to them with quickly. Many storage companies have also jumped in to this potentially lucrative business however many come short of the requirements for a good archive facility. Some storage facilities may in fact not be able to meet the needs for archiving and you may want to use a specialized archive storage firm. These are very common in urban areas where there are a large amount of offices and businesses.
Almost any company can gain from storing files and paper records in an archive. Many doctors, dentists, lawyers and corporations both large and small can take advantage of this option to move some of that paperwork off site. Office space can be very expensive per square foot and using large storage spaces in the office for records may not be cost effective. Off site archiving can be an excellent low cost option.
You will also need to organize your records before placing them in to storage so that retrieval is not an issue. Archive boxes clearly labeled with the contents are a must have and you must also understand your filing system. Conducting this work upfront will make it much easier in the future when you are looking to find records in a hurry.
So what should you look for in an archive facility?
Climate control - Moisture is the enemy of paper and when there is too much moisture in the air paper gets wet and eventually disintegrates. Paper products rot when humidity levels are above 55% RH. High humidity can also cause damage to the spine of books eventually causing the spine to collapse and come apart. It is therefore important to choose a facility that offers climate control. Mildew can also cause damage to paper products and RH levels of 55% or below will control mildew. Paper products are best stored at 50- 80 degrees F.
Easy Access - Many companies offer access 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and depending on your needs you may also want this. The archive firm may have archive specialists hired that can access our records for you whenever you want and fax or send them to you at a moments notice. Of course you will pay extra for this very convenient service. These same specialists may also be able to come to your office, file your records correctly and remove these records to the storage facility for you.
Removals - Many specialized storage companies offer specialists who are hired by the storage facility to come to your office and remove the records to the storage facility for you. These people are experts in handling records so you can be rest assured that they will arrive at the storage facility in the same condition as they left your office. These same specialists may be able to retrieve any records you require at any time and deliver them electronically or by hardcopy to you.
Organized - Are your first impressions of the facility that it is well organized? More specifically, check out if the storage areas are laid out in such a way as to provide easy access for retrieval.
- Are the aisles wide enough and is the shelving laid out is such a way as it is easy to see the labels on the archive boxes?
- Are the shelves sturdy enough to hold all your records safely and securely?
You should also understand whether a large range of paper sizes can be accommodated and whether any electronic media can be stored. More often than not, if paper products can be stored in a facility so can electronic media, however be sure to ask just in case. In fact, most storage companies who are in the business of storing records have advanced enough with the times and understand that in order to be competitive they must offer electronic media storage facilities also. These all sound like basic requirements however many facilities do not meet these basic needs so always examine the space yourself and ask questions.
Services - It is very common especially in specialized archive storage facilities to have extra services available for customers. These can include sales of office supplies including archive boxes and labels. Many facilities also offer office services such as phone, fax and computer access. You will most likely pay a premium rate to gain access to any of these services however the convenience may outweigh the high cost for use.
Insurance - The better companies will insist you have adequate insurance in the unfortunate and unlikely event some or all of your records get damaged. In fact many companies will suggest you take out supplemental insurance above and beyond what is offered by the facility. This is recommended as you cannot replace records once destroyed unless you have them backed up electronically in another location