So what kind of business do you do? An important question when it comes to keeping documents safe. Because the real question is, what are your key documents?
- If you’re an insurance broker, completed insurance application forms are key, since they are the legal document between your customer and the insurance company. They might be needed in court.
- If you’re a lawyer, you have contracts and wills stored in your safe (hopefully in your safe!) on behalf of your clients.
- If you’re a store owner, you probably have contracts with your suppliers and landlord. And, like any business, you have tax returns filed away.
So every business has key documents. We call these vital records – “vital” because it’s tough to do business if you don’t have them. Some vital records are mandated by law or industry regulation. You probably already know about these types of vital records. If you don’t, ask your accountant and lawyer for a good start on the topic.
So how do you protect these vital records? Here are a couple of thoughts for you:
- Decide what records are vital.
- Check each one to see if there is a valid copy elsewhere, such as at your lawyer’s office or at the other contracting party’s location. This will help you decide how easily they can be re-created if it’s necessary.
- Make a copy of those that aren’t easily re-created and store the copy safely offsite. That means secure enough and far enough away such that they won’t be lost or damaged in the same event that affects your own business.
- Consider purchasing a fire-proof and water-proof safe. Safes have fire ratings that tell you how long the contents will last if the safe is in a fire. Ask a few questions to become comfortable about buying one. Remember, though, that this should not be your only protection for your vital records. The fire might be too savage. The safe might be damaged by something other than a fire (think sinkhole, for example). You might need to get at a vital record in your safe before the fire marshal lets you sift through the ashes that once were your business.