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Iron Mountain: office is paper-full not paper free

October 2012 by Iron Mountain

Ahead of World Paper Free Day on October 25th, a new study from information management company Iron Mountain suggests that the paperless office remains beyond the reach of many European firms. Paper documents remain important to businesses and are unlikely to disappear from the office environment any time soon. However, the study shows that keeping large paper archives on site is causing problems for many, with overburdened and disorganised filing systems exposing businesses to an increased risk of data loss and damage, and preventing them from harnessing the full value of their information.

The study, which spoke to information leaders in the legal, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, financial services and legal sectors across the UK, Germany, France, Netherlands, Spain and Hungary, found that more than half (58 per cent) of firms store the majority of their paper records in a central storage repository on office premises. In many cases, the information is archived in the basement, exposing sensitive customer-related and business critical documents to the risk of flood, mould or rodent damage.

More than half (51%) of the companies Iron Mountain surveyed say that the bulk of their important customer communication is stored on paper, yet as many as 45 per cent of respondents said their access and storage capabilities were under “significant strain”, leaving them unable to retrieve information quickly enough. 37 per cent went so far as to characterise their storage capabilities as “chaotic” with little if any discernible structure, with some records placed in storage to never be seen again. Alarmingly, 2% of businesses have no structure whatsoever for storing customer communication.

Many companies are deeply concerned about the business impact of their management of paper-based information. Less than a quarter (24 per cent), believe that they have the appropriate access to customer information to provide strong levels of customer management. 49 per cent are afraid of losing valuable historical documents, and a quarter feel unable to implement an approach to information management that embraces information in paper and digital formats.

“A paperless office may be an unrealistic goal for many but a paper-efficient one is achievable,” believes XXX at Iron Mountain. “Companies do and will continue to create, copy and store paper documents – our research shows that only 1% of European businesses have created a paperless environment. We would advise companies not to rush into a digitise-all approach, but to focus on understanding how information is used and then digitising the documents they need to access frequently. Businesses need to shrink the problem and focus resources on their most important documents, such as corporation documents, customer data and business intelligence. The rest of the existing backlog can be stored offsite for an agreed period of time as part of a Corporate Information Responsibility (CIR) programme.”

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