I know we like to think we now work in a paperless society, but the fact is, we do not. There are still plenty of industries and processes that rely on hardcopy documentation for historical records and in support of daily operations. Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery programs often overlook these vital records as they focus on technology and electronic medium – I caution you not to fall into this same trap.
In know this to be true, especially in airlines, medical and educational organizations as well as in some financial services and other industries.
Airlines are required to maintain and have access to all mechanical and maintenance records for each and every aircraft that they fly. In many instances maintenance initiatives issued by various agencies are printed and given to the mechanics and engineers who then make handwritten notations and sign off on the printed form. These printed forms, with their notations, become the official record of the maintenance activity in compliance with the initiative. Should this physical, hardcopy record be destroyed or lost, the plane (or an entire fleet of planes) will have to be grounded until the maintenance check is performed once again and a new record created. Some airlines maintain these records in a single location and do not scan or digitally record the information (keeping costs down, you know). Should the facility housing these documents go up in smoke, it could take months or longer to recreate the audit trail for those planes – which, by law, must be grounded until proof that all the maintenance initiatives have been completed.
Many medical offices maintain a slew of forms and doctor reports in handwritten form. Just notice all the filing cabinets up and down the halls in your doctor’s office. These records are seldom scanned or stored electronically and are susceptible to numerous risks and threats. The same is true for school records and other information gathered in handwritten forms.
Financial services firms and brokerages still house plenty of hardcopy documents in the form of payment instructions and customer documentation that could cause plenty of financial exposure and compliance irregularities if lost or destroyed.
For those of you who think that we operate in a paperless society, just take a look around and count the number of filing cabinets still in use. What do you suppose is kept in all this space? And, what would be the cost or impact to the organization if they were permanently destroyed?
Now, I am not saying this is true in every environment. Certainly there are many, many offices and industries that truly have no exposure to hardcopy documentation and information. I am just suggesting that your risk analyses, impact analyses and recovery requirements analyses do not simply overlook this potentially critical information base and include consideration of this potentially risky business practice.
Backing up or electronically scanning and storing hardcopy documentation, especially historical documentation, may be something your organization needs to look into. There are plenty of vendors that can help you achieve this end.