As our world grows increasingly digitalized, it’s not uncommon for businesses, organizations, and individuals to question the wisdom of keeping paper hard copy backups. After all, moving all your document and file storage to digital can significantly cut down on the amount of physical space and storage that you’ll need. Thousands of documents can easily be stored on a hard drive the size of a desktop.
But even with external hard drives and cloud computing, it is still critical to keep your most important documents and files on hard copies. From digital degradation to the risk of hardware failure, we’ll break down some of the main reasons why hard copies are still essential for mission-critical documents.
There’s not a single hard drive in the world that doesn’t have the potential to break. Backing up your documents and files onto an external hard drive is great for creating data redundancies and ensuring you always have access to a digital copy. But what happens if the hardware breaks? Not all data will be recoverable, meaning an external hard drive isn’t a future-proof option.
As computing power and hard drive space accelerated in the 2000’s and 2010’s, millions began the process of digitalizing their pictures, videos, and paper documents for storage within the digital space. Unfortunately, many found that within a decade, many of their files were no longer accessible or even recoverable. The files themselves had degraded to the point that they no longer opened.
Data decay is not talked enough about when people look for ways to safely store their files. Not only can the magnetic patterns within a drive fail, but solid-state drives will also slowly leak their electrical charges over time as well.
There’s a reason we still have paper documents from the 1500’s available in museums, while most data files will degrade within five years of storage. Data storage is inherently unstable. When it comes to your most critical and sensitive documents, it’s best to always keep a physical hard copy.
Hard Copies Can Be Safely Discarded and Stored
For highly sensitive information, hard copies are much easier to maintain and securely store. Unlike digital data, your paper hard-copies can’t be hacked. And if stored securely, can be protected from clandestine and unapproved viewing.
At the same time, paper hard-copies can be securely discarded without fear of recovery, while digital data can often be maliciously recovered. Even after deletion.
This is especially relevant for documents such as tax information or other financial data. While most taxpayers now file their taxes electronically, it’s still always a good idea to print out a copy of your tax returns to maintain a hard copy. Doing so allows you to keep quick and secure access to your taxpayer information.
What Types of Hard Copies Should I Keep?
Of course, you don’t have to keep every document that passes through your business as a hard copy. Just as it’s likely that you don’t keep every email that enters your inbox, you also don’t have to store invoices or receipts from years ago.
Documents that are good candidates for hard copy storage are tax forms, corporate bylaws, financial records as well as any official correspondence with the government or governmental agencies. Additionally, important customer information should have a hard copy backup.
If your company is pursuing a paperless strategy, be sure that your most critical documents are always backed up by hard copies on paper. Doing so will help prevent your organization from experiencing issues that can occur with digital data storage.