The Open Road for Electronic Documents

Road to Crusoe IslandIn our “Files and Filing” workshops, we describe filing system design best practices that local governments can use when patrolling the busy “open road” from the office photocopier to the office file drawers. With our tips, local governments can reduce the traffic of unnecessary copies that clog file cabinets and frustrate good records management.

There is an open road for electronic documents and e-mails, too, but the destinations are many: shared network drives, desktop computers, laptops, USB drives, personal e-mail accounts, cloud-based document collaboration platforms, and now smartphones and tablets. Local governments can patrol the open road for electronic documents and apply good records management practices.

One tip is to store the “record copy” of an electronic document on the office server, thereby leveraging the IT department’s regular backups, secure storage of confidential and critical documents, and continually updated antivirus programs.

Another tip is to break the “extra copy habit,” just like with paper files. Before saving a copy of an electronic document to a location other than the shared network drive, consider whether the electronic document is necessary for the work to be done.

Still, electronic documents will end up on portable devices, cloud-based document collaboration services, personal e-mail accounts, etc., and will require proper records management.

As with paper documents, local governments can investigate how electronic documents are used. Why do users need to access their electronic documents away from their workstation? Why do they copy information to portable devices? Why do they use personal e-mail accounts? By an assessment of how you and your colleagues use electronic documents, you can arrive at policies that ensure their proper management.

If you have any questions regarding electronic documents, please ask away at our workshops (your peers would appreciate the discussion of these issues!) or call or e-mail the records management analysts in the Records Analysis Unit at any time.