1. Decide what keep
The first thing you should do before storing your business files in self storage is to go through your documents and decide what you will keep. It is likely that your organization is holding on to a lot of outdated and unnecessary documents. You will want to get rid of any irrelevant or redundant documentation. The best way to do this is through shredding so that any sensitive information on the documents is completely destroyed. If you are dealing with older employee files with personal information, or even files that had payment information, you need to make sure you are disposing of things properly. Be sure to review auditing agencies, such as the IRS or your state comptrollers, requirements for keeping your documents before disposal.
2. Choose the right type of self storage unit
Paper documents are fragile. Environmental factors like humidity and extreme temperatures will damage or render them unreadable. It is important to use a climate controlled unit to store your documents. Paper being an absorbent material, be sure the humidity is controlled, not just the temperature only. This way, documents are safe for long periods.
3. Organize your documents properly for storage
Your main goals are to keep your documents safe and to have easy access to them when needed. You can achieve both goals by organizing your documents properly. Use plastic holders to separate your documents by category, date and so on. Then, put the documents in sturdy, lidded and transparent plastic boxes. This will allow for stacking. Attach a label to each box with a brief description about the documents inside. Use shelves to arrange the boxes in your storage unit.
4. Store vertically
Most storage units have high ceilings. Maximize your storage space by stacking containers. This will mean you either need to use very sturdy, plastic file boxes, or invest in shelving. Shelving has the added benefit that you don’t need to move 5 boxes to get to the one you really need. Plus, shelving is less likely to fall over. Make sure you keep ‘like’ files with ‘like’ files. For example, you might want to keep all employee files towards the back of your store unit. Or you might want to keep all financial information on the right side of your storage unit, with oldest years at the back. Whichever system you choose, make sure you are consistent and keep up with it. It is a good practice to arrange items that you won’t need as often, at the back of your unit. This would be older financial years, for example. And you can organize your storage unit by year, rather than category. This lets you add in order, and not have to make more room when you add another box to the back corner of your storage unit when you need another box of tax information. It is also a good idea to leave a narrow isle open in the center of your unit to allow for access to the back, just in case you need to retrieve an older document.
5. Invest in filing cabinets
Once all your documents are sorted and organized, you will want to keep them in a safe and secure spot; something more efficient than envelopes or file organizers. For that reason, invest in a filing cabinet or storage shelf that you can place in your storage unit. Filing cabinets are great for keeping your documents protected from the elements and are available in multiple sizes, shapes and materials. Metal filing cabinets are going to be the most reliable, durable and weatherproof option. Most will come with rails that can accommodate file organizers easily, which makes them a useful option. Storage shelves with boxes or plastic bins are another great option to keep your documents stored and organized. Shelves with file boxes may be a cheaper alternative than a filing cabinet and offer you the opportunity to visibly see record boxes and documents.
6. Designate which employees have access to the documents
You can provide an employee or several employees, depending on the size of your business, with access to the storage unit. Giving all employees free access to the unit could create confusion. Documents can get lost or disorganized. Assigning one person or a small group with retrieving and replacing documents helps avoid these issues.
7. Create a log for document entries and exits
A document log serves two purposes. First, you have clear records of accessed documents. Second, the log informs you when older documents are no longer necessary. There are different time limits for keeping certain paper documents, so it is useful to note in your log how long you need to keep each one. This way, when the time is up, you can shred them and avoid clutter from papers that are no longer needed. Again, be sure to review regulating agencies time line requirements for keeping your documents.
8. Additional tips for storing your important documents in a self storage unit
Once you have made the decision that you want to store your business documents in a self storage unit, there are several things you need to keep in mind when getting your files prepared.