Mismanagement of paperwork risks small firms' security

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Many smaller firms risk breaching data protection laws with their poor management of paper documents

Mismanagement of paperwork is putting the security of many small firms at risk, according to research from software developer Reckon.

The study of 1,000 small business leaders found that a quarter (25%) of firms risk breaching data laws because of their poor management of paper documents.

Three in 10 (30%) respondents reported relying too heavily on printed documents during their first year of trading, a problem that persisted for 15% of established businesses with a turnover of £10 million or more.

A quarter (23%) of those polled said they struggle to keep on top of paperwork, and one in 10 (10%) admitted they find it difficult to manage and store their paper documents.

The research warned that these difficulties could mean SMEs risk breaking basic data security guidelines, including ensuring that information is stored securely, for a reasonable and agreed length of time, depending on sector, and processed in line with the subject’s rights or contractual agreement.

David Owen, sales director at Reckon, said HR has a key role to play. “HR teams could lead the way in ensuring documents are correctly – and safely – managed within a business or organisation by working closely with IT teams to ensure that the best possible technologies are deployed, whether people are working within the office or remotely," he told HR magazine. "Where possible HR teams could work to manage business profiles and offer incisive training to make sure guidelines are adhered to.

“Using the right technology for paper management in your business should also make life easier for all colleagues, especially when working from outside the office where accessing files can be troublesome.”

Reckon's commercial director Mark Woolley said that it is worrying so many UK SMEs continue to use paper to manage critical information. “Incorrectly or haphazardly managing information can have a negative impact on time, money and reputation; something no business wants,” he said.

He added that employers should stay updated with laws and regulations, even as Brexit approaches. “With new legislation such as the General Data Protection Regulation (which allows clients to claim for damages relating to data loss) coming into force before we leave the EU it is imperative that businesses consider new ways of storing and sharing data securely. This new legislation seeks to strengthen and unify data protection across the continent and is likely to be adopted by the UK even as we leave the European Union.

“What’s more, it will have to be adhered to by any business conducting activity with or on behalf of companies based in an EU member state.”

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