The Building Blocks of Document Management: Preservation

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Proper document preservation does not only include data storage, but also security that data will not be lost.

Document management is a commonly used but frequently misunderstood term. Actions as simple as throwing paper documents into a shredder can be called document management. Actions as complex as scanning, indexing, routing via workflow, and archiving according to retention requirements are also called document management. It’s hard to know how the term is being used, and what is meant, particularly when the term is being used by a technology vendor.

This educational guide is designed to clarify that common confusion, and to highlight the important aspects for the non-technical finance specialist. If you are interested in learning more about automating traditional paper/electronic finance document processes for the purpose of saving money and doing more work with less labor, then this is the Kollabria eGuide for you. No matter what kind of solution you may be planning or investigating, there are three functional components to each and every document management system. All systems are built around three logical building blocks:

1. Capture

2. Management

3. Preservation

What differentiates one system from another is the degree of complexity required from each of the logical building blocks in order to satisfy the needs of the application. 

Preservation

Preservation is commonly confused with storage. For that reason most people don’t look to the document management software vendor to provide this required feature. They usually assume that a backed-up hard drive has “preserved” the data on it. That of course is not true. Backups many times do not have the right data on them, or the data has somehow been corrupted, or the back-up itself fails at the same time as the source disk fails. Preservation means more than that, it means that data loss is virtually impossible. While regular backups are a good practice to minimize the probability of data loss, they don’t eliminate the possibility.

In the case of document management, again depending on how many documents are being managed and how easily they can be recaptured and re-processed, data loss is in most cases simply not an acceptable option.

While data or document loss is one part of the preservation equation, required data destruction is the other. In many cases documents need to be destroyed at certain times or after certain time frames. This too is an integral feature of a good document management solution, and is one that has to be integrated in the document management software itself.

Archiving documents, and being able to selectively restrict and enable access to that archive, are preservation features that must be supported by the document management software application.

Like the features for capture and management, the need for preservation varies by the complexity of the application. Going for overkill, on features in the unlikely event that you might need them at some future date is not an economical way to build a solid document management solution.

The most effective approach is to determine the actual requirements at the outset and select a solution based on these requirements. Selecting a vendor or supplier comes down to determining their ability to speak to not just the individual functionality of a particular piece of software, but to their ability to speak to each of these three building blocks, and offer the proper fit for your needs.

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