Should I Archive Business Data?

Any good business efficiency project plan will involve measuring and storing data. Do you need to invest in archiving data? Although it’s certainly possible to convert just about any existing files, whether physical or electronic, into a current, useable format, it’s not always worth the time and expense involved. Understanding what files you must process and what files you can leave as-is (at least for now) can make the process more palatable and, well, more efficient!

Do you need to archive data?

Don’t make the mistake of investing time and money archiving or processing old files that you have no intention of measuring. Ask yourself a few simple questions first:

  • Are you legally required to have it? If you’re audited tomorrow by the IRS or an industry regulatory body, will you be presenting the auditor with a tractor trailer of bankers’ boxes or an e-mail with an organized set of attachments? Generally, you should be measuring anything that you’re legally required to be tracking, even if the only measurement is “Do you have these required files?”

  • Do you need to measure it? Naturally, the data that you need to measure now is the data that needs to be processed first.

  • Is it a missing piece of an existing puzzle? Sometimes physical files contain substantially different data from their electronic counterparts. For example, customers who send handwritten letters are not the same people who fill out a comment form online, and if you’re measuring customer satisfaction solely from your electronic submissions, you’ll be missing key pieces of data.

  • Is it actively referenced? If your employees are going out to a warehouse or a back room every day to pull a customer’s shipping label or order history, those files should move to the front of the processing pack. Not only are you risking inaccurate or lost data, but your employees are likely more aggravated than you realize about having to get up and sift through files every time they get a request.

Do you need the data now?

Is this data relevant? Maybe you’ll want to archive it one day, but if it’s not going to be included in measurements you’ll be making in the immediate future, you can save it for another day. For example, you may eventually want to import your customers’ entire order histories, but you only need the last 10 years’ worth for your current analyses.

Should you even keep the data?

Are you legally required to get rid of it? In some industries, you don’t want to or can’t hold on to certain files after a period of time. If you discover these files in your archives, not only should you shred them right away, but you should put a process in place to remove these files at set intervals in the future.

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