How secure are your documents?

Does your business or department still work with paper documents? In the information age, this practice has become profoundly anachronistic and usually a sign of business practices being left in the dust by the wheel of progress. Some companies do it because they’re afraid that making a change will disrupt the flow of business, others don’t want to retrain everyone and a few tell themselves that physical documents are more secure than an online document management system. If your reason is that last one, you could be falling for one of the most common security mistakes in the business world.

Among network and security professionals, the idea that avoiding well-traveled security methods and tools leads to a more secure system is a well-known logical fallacy called "Security through Obscurity." While paper documents and locked filing cabinets used to be the mainstream way, now holding out against digitization not only makes you an anachronism, it could be putting your private information at unnecessary risk.

Why People Think Paper Documents are More Secure

Many companies and departments who don’t switch to digital documents are certain this is the more secure option. No doubt, you’ve heard of all the terribly sneaky ways that hackers can get into your network and onto your private digital file systems. You may even be familiar with the various scenarios in which a data leak happens by accident, usually because of employee error. Especially if you’re not really familiar with the whole document digitization and management process, these can sound like horror stories compared to the nice, simple world of paper documents.

With paper, the most sensitive documents are locked up in a case or filing cabinet at night and pulled out the next day, an easy to understand security system. It’s easy to imagine that digital document management, in comparison, is rife with opportunities for your private data to be released onto the internet. However, a lot of these horror stories about data leaks come from longer ago than you may realize. The world of software and data management moves forward at an incredible pace and the kind of digital security available now is miles beyond even what existed five years ago.

The True Security Risks of Paper Documents

The fact of the matter is that paper documents simply aren’t as safe as you think they are, and using them in a mostly modern office only makes them a larger risk. To start with, let’s say you do have a locked filing cabinet procedure. Every day you work with the documents you need and every night you lock them away for safe keeping. But who has the key? Are you the sole member of this chain of custody or do other people in your business or department have keys? Is there a spare keep hidden under the flower pot on top of or near the cabinet or perhaps in a shared office space? The more people who have access to the key, the more possibilities that one will either make a mistake when handling the documents, potentially losing or leaving them out, and the greater chance there is that an unauthorized person will wind up with both key and opportunity to peek.

Then there’s the issue of where the documents are when they’re not locked away. Normally, this will be the desk or personal belongings of the employees responsible for working from and with the information contained in the documents (more people with keys or access). But do they lock the documents back up when on break or out to lunch? What about when simply visiting the copy machine or checking information with a coworker? There are probably a dozen or more times every day that a private business document is left unattended where guests, visitors, maintenance staff, and other unauthorized individuals could sneak a peek, or worse, scan and copy, without anyone taking note.

And that’s not even mentioning the potential losses if your building floods or catches fire.

The Security of a Cloud-Based Document Management System

If and when you do choose to move all that paperwork into the weightless, convenient, and easy to edit digital form, you’ll probably end up doing so through a Document Management System or DMS for short. This is an advanced scanning, storing, editing, searching, and sharing platform that allows authorized employees to access, edit, and manage documents from anywhere. The best part is, for all this convenience you also get an unprecedented amount of security.

Modern encrypted authentication protocols mean that only authorized employees, clients, or business partners can access the documents that are pertinent to them, meaning finances can only be seen by the financial department, employee info is only seen by the subject or HR, and so on. Your documents will not only never lie unguarded on a desk again, the DMS can ensure that no one 'finds the spare key' and gains unauthorized access.

To top it all off, a cloud-based DMS isn’t even on your local network, it safely tucks away all data in a secured virtual space meaning that even if your computers crash or the company network does get attacked by hackers and their malware, your documents are independently stored and safe from the danger or damage.

Photo Credit: Blend Images/Shutterstock

Jesse Wood is the CEO of document management software vendor, eFileCabinet. Founded in 2001, eFileCabinet, Inc. began as a cutting-edge tool to digitally store records in accounting firms. As it grew in popularity, eFileCabinet developed into a full-fledged electronic document management solution designed to help organizations automate redundant processes, ensure security, and solve common office problems.

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