The basics.  They are what we expect at a minimum when engaging in commerce of some kind.  For example:

If you order food, you expect it to be prepared the way it is described or looks in the picture.

If you send clothes to the dry cleaner, you expect them to be clean and pressed on the day they are promised.

Well, what basics should you expect from your records storage partner?

I’ve spoken with a number of folks recently who are just beginning to investigate professional, secure, offsite records storage, and they really don’t know what to expect for the basics.

Before I continue, I will have to admit that I am a bit biased on this front.  Naviant is quite proud of the systems and service we provide so the perspective below is at risk of being skewed.  At the same time, I did say “Secure” and “Professional” so most of what I have to share is indeed what a prudent and reasonable person would consider basic.

Let’s start with the super basic.

Sturdy shelving.  Shelving holding your records should be industrial  gauge steel.  If more than 7 or 8 feet high, it should also be secured to the floor.  Shelving units purchased from your local big box do-it-yourself depot don’t make the cut here.  It only takes one tipped shelving unit to really ruin your day.

Locks.  You laugh, but I am talking about basic.  Also, I’m not only talking about locks at the loading dock bay door and the front door, but on the inside as well.   This is especially the case if the organization does more than document storage and has staff that have no reason to have a key to the storage area holding the records.

And raising the bar a bit…

Organization.  Your vendor should be organized so that when you need something you can get it.  We all have our own methods of being organized (piles vs files is a common debate in my home), but when it comes to serving a customer and having to be accountable to customers and audits your records vendor needs to be able to get to what you need in a timely manner.

Fairness.  You could easily apply this to any business or vendor, but in this context I’m thinking more about establishing an expectation for how you will be invoiced.  Or, to be more specific, I feel it reasonable that you should know what you will be invoiced for and what you won’t.  Believe it or not, not every storage vendor is fully forthcoming with a complete price list of services provided.

And a bit higher yet…

Accountability.  Especially in today’s litigous and regulatory age, it can be prudent to need to know who has had access to your information.  Technology exists and is readily available to be able to track which of your vendor’s staff have had meaningful contact with your records.  To be fair, one box may be moved to get to another while in storage and tracking that contact is a bit extreme. However, if your records are relocated to another space in a facility through an audit process, or your container is pulled for delivery we think it is appropriate to keep track of who did that work.

OK – that’s great:  basics covered.

But much like the server that never lets your water glass go dry and removes finished place settings from the table, there are also ways for your records storage partner to go the extra mile, as well.

On the locks front, having electronic locks that only allow those with appropriate permissions to enter and having different permission levels within the organization provides an additional layer of security.

Organization.  Beyond organization is a process for effectiveness.  Yes it is great that everything can be found, but having a process to maintain that capability when it’s busy or an unusually large delivery comes in is another story.

Invoice translation.  Knowing what you are going to pay for something is basic. Being able to interpret the invoice that looks more like Java coding is another. Believe it or not the detail of records storage invoices is not always clear.  Offering to translate the invoice into what really happened and relate the amount due to the fees lets you know the vendor truly appreciates your business and would like for you to stay.

Accountability. Knowing the “when your records have been handled” along with the “who has handled them” completes the story.  By logging both pieces of information a true chain of custody can be followed.

I recognize that sometimes what to do with all those boxes is not the highest priority decision nor does it have the highest cost to your budget.  At the same time, when that decision does get made, it is still a service that can make a difference to your operations and effectiveness.

At the end of the day, if all you need is your records in a fenced in cage that is one thing.  But if you need attention to detail with regard to your records, realize there are choices and differences out there.

Bonus Tip:  Looking for records storage in your area?  Using your favorite internet search engine, try searching for “secure records storage” or “document storage” along with a nearby metropolitan area.