Should Your Company Keep Hard Copies or Digital Records—or Both?

Should Your Company Keep Hard Copies or Digital Records—or Both?

Should Your Company Keep Hard Copies or Digital Records—or Both?


One of the biggest keys to keeping a company organized is maintaining a methodical recordkeeping system. But in our increasingly digital age, many businesses aren’t clear on whether they should focus on keeping hard copies of their data or digital records.

The answer won’t be the same for every company. After all, each business is unique. Their needs differ based on what they sell, who their customers are, and what legal requirements they need to meet.

With that in mind, though, there are general strategies nearly every company can use to improve their recordkeeping systems. And it begins with deciding what kinds of records the company will keep.

The truth is that there are benefits both to keeping hard copies and maintaining digital records. So let’s look at the benefits of each.

7 Benefits of Keeping Hard Copies of Your Company Records

While some companies boast about completely digitizing their records, not every business feels that’s the safest way to go. And they’re not wrong. There are many clear benefits to keeping hard copies of company records.

1. Hard copies provide legal authenticity.

Some business documents need to have hard copies to maintain legal authenticity. Here are 11 documents that you should keep hard copies of. Some include your company’s business license, tax and financial records, legal documents, the business model or plan, accounting documents, company rules, employee and client contracts, and company goals.

When it comes to keeping hard copies, you want to focus on the documents that are most important or that are legally binding. In fact, in some cases, you may need to maintain hard copies of certain legal documents (such as contracts) in order to enforce them, says attorney Matthew Podolsky.

Always consult your attorney if you’re unsure about which records require hard copies.

2. They can’t be destroyed by digital memory loss.

Has your computer ever shut down while you were writing an important document before you had a chance to save it? It’s incredibly frustrating when you lose all your hard work.

When it comes to important records, you don’t want to risk the chance of those digital files being accidentally erased. And yes, files in cloud-based storage like Google Drive or Dropbox or on a shared network can still be accidentally deleted.

With the right backup plans in place, you can usually recover the file, but not always. That’s why it can be safer to keep hard copies of company records as opposed to only digital files.

3. They’re easier to permanently destroy if need be.

It’s safer to keep hard copies because they’re harder to accidentally delete, but the opposite is also true. Hard copies are easier to permanently destroy if you need to do so.

For instance, if you are legally required to get rid of certain client information that you have on file, all you need to do to get rid of the hard copies is shred them. With digital files, you have to not only delete the actual file, but then you also have to delete the backup file (and any other backup copies you may have).

4. Hard copies are easier to keep secure.

By the same token, it’s easier to keep hard copies safe from prying eyes. Locked filing cabinets, safes, and secure rooms are typically secure enough to keep hard copies of sensitive information safe from thieves.

And while digital security is constantly improving, hackers are constantly getting stealthier. Cybercriminals are continually trying to figure out how to bypass the latest digital security features. 

If they get hold of your company’s sensitive information, you’ll likely have to pay whatever “ransom” they demand. Over 50% of companies who have experienced data breaches have paid the digital intruders a ransom, according to Proofpoint’s State of the Phish 2020 report.

Unfortunately, even paying these cyberthieves doesn’t guarantee that companies will get the data back. Plus, you can’t be sure the hacker won’t keep copies of the sensitive information they stole.

5. Hard copies can stand the test of time while technology advances.

Digital storage methods have certainly changed over the years. Today’s young professionals can hardly fathom storing files on a floppy disk.

With each new advancement in technology, we have new and more secure ways of storing digital files. That’s great for digital security, but with each tech advancement, digital files need to be transferred to the new storage method.

Yet hard copies stand the test of time. You might need to physically transfer them if the company moves to a new building. But you don’t have to convert them into a new type of file (and hope they don’t accidentally get deleted in the process).

6. They can build greater trust with clients.

The average person understands that hard copies are more secure. By keeping hard copies of important records, you can strengthen your clients’ trust and give them the confidence that you are safely storing their data.

If clients need to sign legal documents to work with you, it can put them at ease to have their own hard copy of the document. That way, if you ever didn’t keep up your end of the bargain, then they have paper proof of what you’re legally required to do.

7. Hard copies are easier to reference during meetings, especially with clients.

When you’re in a meeting where everyone needs to look at the same records, it’s much easier to pass out hard copies. You could, of course, use a projector to display the digital files on a screen. But hard copies allow team members to flip through the documents at their own pace and absorb the information.

If your meeting is with a client, you want to give them the freedom to look through the document right then and there. This is especially useful if the record is a report, a legal document, or a contract. This way, the client can ask you questions about specific sections if they need clarification.

7 Benefits of Keeping Digital Copies of Your Company Records

Now that you know the benefits of keeping hard copies of your important documents, let’s look at the benefits of maintaining digital records.

1. Digital copies are easy to send and distribute.

As of 2020, around 4.2 billion people are regular email users, which is more than 50% of the global population. In the business world specifically, this rate is certainly much higher.

Many businesses rely on email for their communication. As a result, clients, co-workers, and vendors expect you to email them important information. But if you rely on hard copies, you need to scan the document and turn it into a digital file before emailing it.

Maintaining digital records of your documents makes sending records via email much easier. And if they’re stored on a shared network, it’s even easier to pass along digital files to co-workers and superiors within your company.

2. Digital recordkeeping can help cut down on the amount of paper you use.

The average office worker uses around 2 pounds of paper and paperboard products each day, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Even for a small company of only 70 employees, that’s a lot of paper!

Digital records can help scale back the amount of paper your company uses, saving money and trees.

While it’s still important to keep hard copies of legally binding documents, you can rely solely on digital files for less important records.

Files like photos, marketing content, analytics reports, and more are fine to keep digitally. Consider sitting down with your team and figuring out other ways to save on paper and avoid unnecessary waste.

3. They save storage space.

Have you ever seen a room full of filing cabinets? It’s a pretty intimidating sight. Trying to find the right document in a room full of physical files can be daunting, even if the organization system is easy to follow.

Plus, keeping hard copies of all your files can quickly eat up your physical storage space. Going digital can save room for more important things, like room to hire more employees or more meeting rooms to increase productivity.

4. Digital records are easy to access.

Think back to that image of trying to find one file in a room full of filing cabinets. It’s overwhelming, right?

Digital records can be much easier to find as long as the organization system is clear. Double clicking to open a digital folder is much easier than thumbing through hundreds of paper folders in your office filing cabinet.

5. It’s easier for teams to collaborate on digital documents.

Modern technology has made it incredibly easy for teammates to collaborate on digital projects. With Google Drive, your team can easily work on the same document, spreadsheet, PowerPoint presentation, form, or marketing survey. And if you would prefer that certain members only have viewing access, you can make that change in the access settings.

Other great tools for digital collaboration include Canva (for graphics/images/PDFs), Smartsheet, BasecampTeamwork and WorkFront.

6. Clients can easily sign digital contracts.

E-signing has revolutionized the process of signing contracts. Yes, some contracts still need to be signed physically to meet legal requirements, but many can be signed electronically without a problem.

In fact, there are plenty of e-signing tools your company can use to simplify the process for your clients. Trust us, it’s much easier to e-sign a contract than it is to print out the document, sign it physically, and then mail it back to the company. Make your customers happier with e-contracts!

7. Digital records are easier to edit if need be.

The last great thing about digital records is that they’re easier to edit than hard copies are.

If you need to make a change to a physical document that doesn’t have a digital counterpart, you have to type it up all over again—or perhaps use some whiteout and a pen.

Storing Word Doc or Google Doc files allows you to easily edit. And even if you only have PDF copies, copy/paste is still a lifesaver.

How to Best Organize Your Digital Records and Hard Copies

The bottom line is that there are benefits to keeping hard copies just as there are benefits to keeping digital records. And in fact, many companies use a mixture of both methods. The key, then, is knowing the balance that works best for your company.

Here are a few tips to help you coordinate your physical/digital recordkeeping system.

Decide What Kinds of Hard Copies You Will Keep

As mentioned before, you most likely only need to keep certain types of physical files. At the very least, your business should keep hard copies of legal documents, important contracts, tax returns, and business licenses.

Be sure to keep digital backups for all your physical files just in case.

Create a Clear Organization System for Both Types of Files

Whatever types of physical records you decide to keep, make sure that the organization in your physical filing system matches the organization in your digital filing system.

This is important if you want to avoid companywide confusion. Few things are as frustrating as not being able to find a file you need because the organization methods aren’t in sync.

One great way to maintain organization for your hard copies is by clear labeling.

Use our custom rubber stamps to clearly label invoices, receipts, tax returns, and more. Check out our custom self-inking stamps here and our stock message stamps here.

Our stamps make organizing paperwork in your sales and accounting departments much easier!

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