5 Essential Strategies to Heighten Customer Data Protection

customer data protection

Did you know that it’s your responsibility as a company to safeguard customer information?

Inside threats are some of the most significant threats to security in an organization. An employee or other stakeholders may breach data either intentionally or unintentionally. Protecting customer information doesn’t need to be a challenge.

Customer data is a valuable resource and businesses should be smart when handling crucial data to avoid losing it or exposing it to third parties.

In 2016, there was a data breach at Uber after hackers accessed private information for millions of customers. The company used over $140 million in compensation. The incident damaged the firm’s reputation for failure to protect data.

Most recently, Equifax and Capital One both experienced data breaches that exposed the personal information of hundreds of millions of customers. You may be wondering, if these large businesses can’t protect customer data, how can I?

In this guide, discover quick strategies to heighten your business customer data protection plan.

1. Educating your Employees

Research has shown that most data breaches are caused by employees unintentionally. Ignorance among employees is dangerous and the management should ensure that they are well-informed about various measures to protect customer data.

The education program should include information about how to properly store and dispose of confidential documents

2. Keeping Technology Up to Date

If you keep electronic documents, keeping technology up to date is an essential step for any organization that values the security of its customer data. Ensure that all devices have the latest anti-virus software and all users should be educated about the need to allow recommended virus updates.

3. Access to Customer Data

Not every employee needs access to your customer’s or employee’s personal information. Keep access to sensitive customer information limited to those who need it to perform their job duties. The fewer people who have access to data, the fewer opportunities for a breach.

4. Destroy Data No Longer Needed

Knowing how and when to destroy documents and data will help ensure your customers, employees, and businesses personal information stays safe. Determine how and when to destroy digital and paper documents and stay up to date with Data Disposal Laws.

Different professions have different requirements under the Data Disposal Laws. Make sure you follow the best practices of your industry.

Develop guidelines and policies for data retention inside your business to handle the storage and destruction of documents and data.

5. Work With a Professional

Customer data is a valuable resource for all firms. Businesses should safeguard it using all possible measures as failure to do so can damage an organization’s reputation and lead to huge losses.

Working with a professional company such as Federal Records Management & Shredding in Fort Wayne, IN is one of the best ways to protect confidential documents and data. Professional Records Management companies can help train employees on how to handle your customer’s and your businesses personal information as well as help you set data retention policies.

Simply deleting data or using store-bought shredders isn’t enough. A professional destruction company can help you make sure that your files are properly destroyed.

Need help protecting your businesses sensitive information? Contact us today to learn more about our records management, hard drive destruction, and on-site and off-site shredding services.

FERPA Regulations 101: How to Effectively Manage Educational Records

Students learn a lot, about a lot of things, during their time in class. College students learn about everything from physics equations to the thematic components of Manhattan Transfer. Most of all, they learn about their rights as students.

FERPA regulations guide how colleges and universities must handle student information. However, FERPA doesn’t just concern colleges, students, and educational information. The acronym stands for the Family and Educational Rights and Privacy Act since it also governs how administrators should maintain and distribute information to families.

Any educational institution that receives federal funding must abide by the rules set by FERPA. Otherwise, you can face worse consequences than losing funding; violating the law can result in criminal prosecution and accreditation loss. Make sure you don’t accidentally violate this vital law by learning more about it.

Keep reading below to learn more about how FERPA regulates how you can handle student information, and how you can stay in compliance with it!

Know What to Define as an Educational Record

The first thing you should understand about FERPA is that it sets clear guidelines on what is considered an educational record. Documents such as class schedules, grades, or anything else relating a student’s academic life is an educational record. Yet, anything involving university police or digital communications are not covered.

This means that anyone can request to view records of digital communications or police records since they’re public information. They’re not protected by FERPA, and public universities will need to comply with public information requests.

FERPA Regulations Limit Who Can View Files

FERPA explicitly states that students can view their own records, but only them. Nobody can request to see a student’s records unless the student themselves requests the record. It doesn’t matter if the person requesting records is a professor or a member of the student’s family.

This is meant to protect students’ privacy and allow them to have more control over their academic lives. It enables them to focus on what matters most: classes.

FERPA Protects Three Kinds of Information

There are three types of information that FERPA protects: educational information, personally identifiable information, and directory information. While each category has specific degrees of protection associated with it, it is generally illegal to distribute them. You can only give those kinds of information to the students they’re about.

Educational information can include anything about the student’s education, such as classes or grades. The category of personally identifiable information covers anything that can be used to identify a specific person, such as social security numbers*. Finally, directory information is a more unique kind of record.

Directory information can be distributed, as long as the university notifies students that their directory information may be released. This kind of information includes basic details such as names or addresses. It’s important to remember that the student should have time to request that their information remains private.

Violating FERPA Has Severe Consequences

Violating FERPA regulations will have severe consequences, no matter who you are or whatever institution you work for. Releasing information that should remain private will result in an investigation. You will also face consequences for failing to protect student information, too.

Keeping these confidential documents confidential also means knowing how to manage them. That’s why you should leave handling sensitive documents to the professionals. Contact us if you need a better way to maintain student information. We know FERPA inside and out, and will make sure you stay in compliance with it!

5 Industries That Really Need Document Management Systems

records management system fort wayne

Documents are big business and there’s no denying the fact that storing and organizing documents can be a major task. That’s why having a document management system capable of meeting the needs of business is crucial for operating efficiently. And yet not every industry has the same needs.

Read on to discover some of the industries that have the greatest need for powerful document management systems.

1. Government

This one should come as no surprise to anyone. After all, governments at all levels must compile and maintain vast amounts of documents. Federal, state, and local, have to be able to track countless documents for everything from taxes to passports to parking tickets.

From Washington, D.C. to the smallest county in your neck of the woods, governments process more documents than any other type of industry.

2. Manufacturing

There are so many aspects to manufacturing, that the number of documents required to keep everything running can be astounding.

Warehousing alone places a huge burden on a company’s ability to efficiently manage their documents. This is an industry that requires the tracking of parts, materials, shipments, invoices, and contracts, just to name a few.

It’s vital to be able to pull up information at a moment’s notice, make changes, and meet deadlines, as quickly and efficiently as possible at any hour of the day or night.

3. Healthcare

Imagine going to an appointment with your doctor, or having an emergency that requires hospital care, yet they don’t have the documentation necessary to process you. This would create a crisis.

Information is the lifeblood of the healthcare industry. From administration to healthcare professionals, to IT specialists, everything must run optimally at all times.

Healthcare companies depend on immediate access to patient records and compliance documents, as well as insurance information. This is a massive and dynamic industry with massive document management needs.

4. Transportation

There is no end to the document management needs of the transportation industry. This is an industry that relies on complicated logistics, where documentation is constantly changing and must be available around the clock. Whether shipping over the road, by rail, sea or sky, every other industry on the planet relies on transportation to deliver products on time, and that’s no easy task.

5. Education

The final industry on our list is education. Every educational institution relies on good documentation management to keep up with every aspect of student life. From transcripts to testing, to grades, this information is important and must be efficiently managed.

You can’t put a price on education, and the education industry can’t put a price on the value of a good document management system.

The Importance of Document Management Systems

This article only scratches the surface on industries that rely on good document management systems.

No matter what industry you are in, you simply cannot operate efficiently without the support of reliable documentation. And the quality of your document management could be the difference between success or failure.

If you need help with your document management, give us a call today to learn how we can help your business run more efficiently and effectively.

Next, see 5 reasons why data protection is more important than ever for your business.

Strictly Confidential: Here Are 3 Types of Confidential Documents You Should Keep an Eye on at Your Workplace

confidential records

A recent study found that most companies don’t have the technology to keep employees from sharing confidential documents. What’s worse, 68% of companies surveyed said they don’t know where their confidential info is stored.

Part of keeping your company’s confidential documents safe is understanding what types of documents are confidential. Here’s a list of 3 types of confidential documentation that you should take good care of.

1. Contracts and Commercial Documents

Some of the most important confidential documents include contracts and other business documents. Confidential documentation must be properly handled and stored to protect both your organization and the third-party.

Most contracts have a confidentiality clause. Your contract with important clients could become void if it fell into the wrong hands. Plus, contracts have a lot of sensitive data. Such as the cost of the services, and the names of the involved parties. If a competitor got their hands on this document, they could use it to hurt your business or steal your clients.

Make sure you limit physical copies of commercial documents. Keep those copies in a confidential file that is not easily accessible.

You may also consider offsite record storage for additional security.

2. Confidential Employee Information

Another important aspect of confidential documentation is employee information. This includes personal data such as Social Security Numbers, date of birth, marital status, and mailing address.

Identity theft is a huge issue that requires constant vigilance. In fact, in 2017 one in 15 people were victims of identity theft.

Safe employee information prevents identity theft and fraud. But there’s much more employee information that should be housed in a confidential file. This includes employee resumes, background checks, interview notes and tests, performance reviews and disciplinary paperwork. Employment information such as pay rate, employment contract, level of benefits, vacation and bonuses are also confidential documentation.

There are also a number of admin info related to employees that need to be kept safe. This includes pay stubs or direct deposit forms. Tax forms, time sheets, and any other payroll documentation as well. Even once an employee is no longer an employee, you still need to keep their data confidential. For example, resignation letters, unemployment claims, and termination records.

3. Office Plans and Internal Documentation

Many people don’t realize that their office floor plans, seating arrangements, internal processes, and procedure manuals are confidential documents.

Most organizations have detailed office layouts that include exits, seating plans and so on. You likely also have some procedures that employees need to be able to do their work. Sure, all your employees have access to them. But you don’t want it to get into the hands of those who would use it for nefarious purposes.

If you can, store these documents electronically. Ask employees to limit print outs. And when a version becomes old, make sure it is securely shredded.

Final Thoughts on Confidential Documents at Work

We hope this list helps you see the extent of the confidential documents in your organization. By becoming more aware of what counts as confidential, you can take steps to ensure it is safe.

Need help coming up with a records management and shredding plan to keep your documents safe? Contact us. We help companies in and around Fort Wayne keep their confidential records safe and we can help you too.

Next, learn 5 ways to avoid customer data theft.

Employee Privacy Laws: How to Protect Employee Privacy

Employee privacy and information is crucial data that must be protected at all costs. Failure to do so can lead to petty arguments about pay all the way up to multi-million dollar lawsuits. Yet many employers are so caught up in the day-to-day running of their business, they forget to put the right measures in place.

Follow these guidelines if you have recently found yourself concerned about whether or not you are doing the right things.

Protect Employee Privacy with Cyber Security

Over 14 million businesses in the US are at risk of being targeted by hackers. From email phishing campaigns to DDoS attacks, once your servers are compromised, anything is up for grabs.

Businesses worry about their client’s data and their own trade secrets. But they forget that vital employee data like social security numbers and bank accounts are all stored as well. 

It’s vital your IT department is given the resources and training to prevent and even block an attack should it happen. 

While you can by software to help, you ultimately need a dedicated person or team working to keep your records safe.

Limit Access to Information

Managing employee information and payroll is a special task that requires confidentiality and trust. But even then, accidents happen and people can make mistakes. That’s why it’s advised to diversify the tasks among employees. This way, they only have access to certain parts of the information but not all of it. 

For example, if someone’s role is to handle wages, then they don’t need to be the one also dealing with tax-withholding forms and other data. Of course. this can be difficult if you are a small business and only have one person working on this or use a software program. In these situations, you should work with the software help center. Often, they are able to advise on restricting access, limiting information, and even offer enhanced security measures. 

Never assume the data is secure and safe until it’s been checked over by a professional.

Avoid Accidental Leaks

Another issue that businesses have faced in the past is privacy leaks from word-of-mouth or even glances at a computer screen.

When you hire people to handle sensitive data it is important to give them proper training and guidance. Rules such as ensuring they have exited the software before leaving their desks and changing passwords frequently can help.

You should also stress the risks of disclosing information and layout enforceable consequences should it happen. Confidentiality agreements and provisions for immediate termination are great ways to make this happen if local policies allow it.

Employees handling sensitive information should also be given their own private spaces to work. An employee passing by or coming up to talk may accidentally see information they shouldn’t have. If they share it without thinking, it could lead to issues and even liability.

Open plan spaces are only fine for departments which have ad-hoc projects and collaboration.  

Be Thorough

As your business grows and becomes more complex it’s essential to reevaluate older policies and practices.

If you think your security measures need to be updated to protect employee privacy then start working on it immediately. 

Check out our services and see how our processes ensure all handled data is safe and secure.

How Long Should You Keep Employee Records?

employee records

Anyone who works in HR knows: employee records add up. Between your records for past employees, current employees, and possible hires, it’s almost impossible to keep track of all the paperwork you have to deal with.

Is there a way to cut down on all of this?

You can keep your paperwork collection from getting too large by getting rid of old files. But there’s a certain amount of time you need to keep them before throwing them away.

Here’s how long to keep employee records.

How Long to Keep These Records

Figuring out how long you need to keep your employee records is not an exact science. But here are some good rules of thumb to get you started:

  • Hiring records: 1 year
  • Drug test records: 1 year (5 for transportation jobs)
  • Payroll: 3 years (5 years after termination)
  • Form I-9: 3 years after hire, 1 after termination
  • Benefits Information: 6 years
  • FMLA records: 3 years
  • Employment records: 3 years after termination

These rules are not flawless, but you should be keeping these files at least for this long.

Why are we being so cautious? Well, that’s because how the laws work depend on where you live …

A Word of Warning

Sometimes, state laws and federal laws differ. For example, here in Indiana, Payroll records need to be kept for 10 years, not 3. This is just one example of how things can be different.

When you notice any of these discrepancies, you should follow the longer rule. In our example, that means that you should be following the state law. But the state law is not absolute. If the federal law is longer, then you should follow that one instead.

It can be difficult to figure out when and how to keep employee records. And if you’re already running a business, or doing a thousand other HR jobs, how are you supposed to keep up on when these records are too old?

If you’re taking care of records on your own, it’s easy to let them pile up as you focus on other things.

What if there was an easier way?

Want to keep employee records safe?

What you need is records management. Professional records management will store all of your records for you, keep them organized and, most importantly, destroy them when the time comes. This keeps them out of your way when you don’t need them, and clean and organized when you do.

But, you may be thinking, this comes with its own set of problems.

What happens if you need the files? A lot of the time, you might be worried about getting them on time. When you need a file, you need it right then, not hours from when you ask for it. That’s why we provide our Fort Wayne clients with delivery within minutes, not hours or days.

If you’re looking for a records management service that is willing to work with you no matter what the time of day, then we’re your people. Get in touch to see how we can help you today!

What Is Records Management? Everything You Need to Know

what is records management

It’s a great feeling when your business is going well and growing. It’s every entrepreneur’s dream. With your growing success, how well are you keeping up the pace?

More business means more hands to do the job. It also means paperwork. More paperwork means you need a better system to stay organized. But, you already knew that. The trouble is, when you search the internet for details on how to manage your records, you’ll hit some confusion along the way. Like document management and record management. What is records management?

This guide gives you a quick rundown of everything you need to know about records management and why you need it ASAP.

What is Records Management?

First, let’s take a closer look at what records management means. Records management is the practice of archiving or keeping documents that are of an important nature.

These documents are made up of:

  • Paper
  • Electronic forms
  • Files
  • Emails
  • Faxes
  • Contracts
  • Leases
  • Vendor communications
  • Etc.

Records management also establishes policies and procedures for maintaining these records.

Why Do We Need Records Management?

The idea behind why we need records management is simple. We use records management is to:

  • Control our records
  • Simplify the way records are stored
  • Ensure the security of our records
  • Easily locate the records when they’re needed
  • Determine how long records need to be retained
  • Cut the amount of data that is no longer needed or obsolete

The next question you’ll need to ask yourself is: Do you want your records management done on-site or off-site?

Records Management Company in Fort Wayne

As you can see, it’s vital to have a proper record management system for your business. You need to keep your documents secure and easily retrievable to keep your business running smoothly.

If you’re looking for off-site records management, look no further! Let Federal Records Management and Shredding in Fort Wayne be your document keepers!

We are a locally owned, operated, and AAA-certified document management company in the greater Fort Wayne area.  In fact, we’re the only locally-owned and operated document management company in Fort Wayne!

If you need proper disposal of your documents and records, we offer those services, too. We offer on-site and off-site secure document shredding and computer hard drive destruction.

We have a team of experienced professionals who will work with you. They will help develop a plan to efficiently manage your records and information.

So contact us and let us help you manage your important records today!

Information Management: The Key to an Efficient Staff and Effective Business

information management

Almost all businesses or organizations have records, documents, and other types of information that need to be retained. The right information, at the right time, is essential for staff, clients, and management. Managing information so that it is accessible, usable, accurate, and complete — all in a timely and cost-effective manner — is no small feat. However most businesses do not have an organization-wide system is in place and managing records and information becomes the responsibility of “everyone” … which — as anyone working in today’s hectic, multitasking workplace knows — likely means “no one”.

Why Your Business Needs Information Managment

All too often, the importance of records management becomes clear only AFTER one of the following problems has occurred:

  • managers are spending too much time waiting for records or crucial pieces of information
  • staff is spending too much time searching for information files or information needed by customers or clients
  • filing systems are strained and costly office space is being taken up to house no-longer-needed files
  • important, private, or confidential information is accessible to unscrupulous people and exposed to theft or fraudulent use
  • important records are improperly stored — exposing them to humidity, mold, dirt, rodents or insects — and permanently damaged
  • there is a crisis — either physical (e.g. broken water pipes, fire, smoke damage) or professional (e.g. an audit, a lawsuit) — ruining crucial records and exposing to the public the organization’s poor level of records management

Avoiding these problems just makes sense. It also makes sense to allow your staff and business to run as effectively, productively, and efficiently as possible. Leave the records management to the professionals! Federal Records Management & Shredding in Fort Wayne offers all the services, security, and cutting-edge technology to manage and protect your information for you — saving you time and money, and giving you peace of mind.

How Long Should You Keep Business Records?

how long to keep business records

Business Record Retention

Many business owners and office managers wonder how long records need to be kept — and which ones, specifically? The answer generally depends on the aspect of your business to which the record pertains; e.g. taxes? hiring? regulations? etc. There are a wide range of legal, accounting, and regulatory guidelines for records retention. The answer can also vary depending on your specifics business type or industry.

Keep in mind that electronic communications and documents also need to be included for preservation.

Here are some basic guidelines:

Business Income Tax Returns and Supporting Documentation

Income tax returns for your business and their supporting documents should be kept for 7 years (the period of limitation by which either you may seek to amend your tax return, or the time in which the IRS may audit your tax return).

Employment Tax Records

Employment tax records should be kept for 4 years (including information such as your employer identification number; amounts and dates of wages paid; annuity and pension payments; names, addresses, social security numbers, and dates of employment of employees)

Business Asset Records

Business asset records should be kept “until the period of limitations ends from the year you disposed of the property” according to the IRS (to help you calculate depreciation, amortization, and gains or losses on that property)

Business Ledgers and Other Key Documents

Business ledgers and other key documents including financial statements, annual reports, corporate by-laws and amendments, Board of Director information, and annual meeting minutes should be kept permanently.

Human Resources Files

Human resource files should be kept for 7 years after an employee has left or been terminated (for job applicants who were not hired = 3 years; for an employee who suffered an accident on the job = 7 years)

Other Business Records

  • Canceled Checks = 7 years
  • Bank Account and Credit Card Statements = 7 years
  • Ownership Records = permanently (including articles of incorporation, director and shareholder meeting minutes, stock ledgers, etc.)

(Note: These suggestions should not take the place of consulting with a professional to make sure you are in compliance with requirements specific to your industry and organization.)

Business Document Storage and Management in Fort Wayne

It’s understandable why business people everywhere feel confused by requirements and regulations AND swamped with paperwork. That’s how Federal Records Management & Shredding can help! Business records management is important that’s why our staff is always up-to-date on the latest requirements for records retention. We can train your staff to understand these requirements and regulations, too which can reduce your liability. And, we offer state-of-the-art records retention storage, databases, and one-day record retrieval services — all right here at our convenient to downtown Fort Wayne location.

To avoid identity theft and protect sensitive business information, be sure to properly destroy business records that you no longer need to retain— another important reason to use Federal Records Management & Shredding!

What Is Records Management? Why Is It Important?

what is records management

Records management. We talk a lot about it around here. In fact, it’s not only in our name, it’s in our blood. However, few may know what it is or why it’s important to their company.

What is Records Management

Records are the documents that provide all the important evidence of your company’s business. Medical records, business documents, legal filings, or other sensitive information are all obvious records that should be kept. Other pieces of information related to your business may need to be kept as well. All the information created, sent and received in the course of doing business is potentially a record. They keep track of what happened, who made the decision, and what was expected to happen next.

Records management is the handling and storage of those important documents.

 

Why is Records Management Important?

Managing information — keeping it, tracking it, and being able to retrieve it — protects your business and makes everyone’s job easier. If your records are well-managed you can:

  • easily locate documents or information when needed
  • reuse previous documents, information, or completed work to avoid “re-creating the wheel”
  • determine the most recent, or official, version of a document
  • prove why a decision was made or a process implemented
  • keep important documents and sensitive information secure
  • protect yourself, your clients, and your business

Records Management in Fort Wayne

However, most businesses do not have the time, space, or resources to effectively manage their records. That’s where we come in.

Locally-owned and operated Federal Records Management and Shredding in Fort Wayne can save your company time, reduce liability, and save money by managing this process for you. We offer climate-controlled storage location, online record management system, and highly trained information security professionals to meet your information management needs. Some specific services we offer, include:

We offer:

  • a secure storage facility with 24/7 surveillance inside and out.
  • secure pickup and delivery of your documents when you need them (being locally-operated, we offer extremely quick access to your documents)
  • indexing and barcoding allow for tracking records every step of the way and facilitates quick retrieval by providing information on the contents of every box
  • secure document destruction — when records have reached the end of their life-cycle, they can be shredded at our AAA-certified facility

The professional team at Federal Records Management & Shredding works hard to manage and protect your important information by offering state-of-the-art, records management services.

Need help managing your documents? Contact Federal Records Managment & Shredding today at (260) 267-9652 to learn more.