I propose switching to a fully electronic system for archiving paper forms. I recommend that Records Management policies should be redesigned with the intention of storing only electronic versions of the required documents, with a single electronic archive storage system for each agency. Network storage space is cheap, and offers numerous benefits over hardcopy storage:
•Low cost - Depending on scanner capability/settings, scanned files containing mostly text take an average of about 100kb per page. As a consumer, I can purchase a 12TB NAS device for about $1300 at current prices, which would hold about 120 million pages.
•Quick access - If the archival system is set up properly with indexing and file naming, finding the proper file will be as fast as the network speed permits. This would allow employees to spend more time on their primary mission and less time tracking down old paperwork.
•Remote access - Paperwork audits of archives can be done from HQ or hubs, without the need for travel time/expense.
•Reduction of leased space - The need for an archival room would be removed, reducing real estate footprint and related costs at every agency that leases office space.
•Security - File security could easily be maintained, with permissions being set so that any authorized personnel could upload or view archived files, but only a select few would have authority to delete files. Access restrictions could also be put in place regarding documents with varying levels of security clearance requirements.
•Interface - This could be set up either as an attached storage drive accessible by any computer on an agency’s network, or with access through web browsers for agencies that have their own intranet set up
Initial conversion to this system would take a bit of time/effort, but the cost and time savings would pay for themselves quickly. The easiest approach would be to start adding any new archives into the system, while setting up a schedule for converting old files.