How Can You Legally And Securely Store Business Records?

If your business creates and maintains voluminous records that must be maintained for a specific length of time, you may find yourself quickly running out of storage space as your customer, client, or patient base expands. While renting a storage unit to house these documents until they can be destroyed could seem like the simplest option, you could be reluctant to begin off-site storage of potentially confidential documents for fear of professional or personal liability. What can you do to ensure your storage practices are legal? Read on to learn more about your secure business storage options.

What legal requirements govern the storage of business records?

Depending upon your industry and the types of records your business keeps, you could be subject to state and federal regulations requiring you to ensure this information remains non-accessible to the public. For example, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires those in custody of records that could contain protected patient information to maintain their security, even when these documents are stored off-site. A HIPAA violation, even an inadvertent one, could have an impact on the violator's professional license and subject him or her to fines and civil penalties.

What are your secure storage options?

If you believe your lack of storage space will be temporary, your best bet is often to rearrange the furniture and filing cabinets in your office to help make the most of your existing space. For example, you may be able to hang storage cabinets on a wall that would otherwise remain empty. However, you'll need to keep in mind any restrictions on public access to the information in these files and locate them accordingly -- for example, you won't want to place confidential patient records in an unlocked filing cabinet near the office's entrance. 

For situations in which you're likely to permanently need more storage than your office or storefront can provide, you may want to rent a long-term storage unit for the off-site storage of files. This can free up a significant amount of space in your office, and is a less expensive option than constructing a storage shed or adding to your business's "footprint."

As long as you take proper precautions against the theft or release of these files, you should be able to avoid any liability for disclosure of confidential information, even if your storage unit is burglarized and this information is released. Precautions may include the purchase of locking file cabinets to keep in the storage unit or the selection of a storage unit in a guarded, well-lit facility with few thefts.