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Why You Need a Disaster Recovery Plan for Paper Records

As society depends more and more on technology, it has become standard practice for companies and law firms to invest in safeguarding their digital data and IT infrastructure. Primary storage systems, backup systems, and secondary sites with backups for disaster recovery are the norm. With these defenses in place, if anything unexpected happens like a natural disaster, data can be recovered quickly and business can continue as usual.

Strangely, when it comes to physical paper documents, the same precautions aren't always taken. Law firms, in particular, create, consume, and manage vast amounts of paper records, and typically don't go to the necessary lengths to protect them.

Paper degrades over time, is vulnerable to being misplaced or damaged, and can require a massive amount of physical space to store. A typical paper records recovery plan may entail prioritizing some records over others, storing them in climate-controlled rooms, spreading records across multiple locations, and retroactive measures such as attempting to dry already compromised paper records.

These methods are outdated, unreliable, and costly. Companies should be aiming to protect all their records instead of using valuable time and labor to determine which records they can afford to protect or save after the fact. The truth is that very little can be done to mitigate the inherent risks of keeping records in paper form. The threat of natural disasters that hovers on the horizon demands that we address the discrepancy between standard IT practices and how paper records are handled.

Digitizing paper records is certainly an important first step, but many companies and firms will stop there and use hard drives as backup systems instead of using cloud-based record management. Storing digital files on hard drives, while less unruly, carries similar risks to storing files on paper. Hard drives are often taken home nightly as a precaution against fires or floods, making them exceedingly vulnerable to becoming lost or damaged. 

Baltimore law firm took these common precautions with a hard drive that contained critical case information. It was lost and the medical records it contained weren't encrypted. The breach resulted in a lawsuit on behalf of 100 people against the medical professional represented by the firm. If you're not protecting your records like you protect your data, you're ultimately putting yourself at risk. 

The Large-Scale Impact of Loss of Records

While contingency plans are often in place for how to proceed when an extreme weather event is on the way, natural disasters do not wait for those plans to be executed, and will often strike well before records can be moved and/or protected.

Hurricane Katrina (2005)

  • Between 5,000 and 6,000 lawyers lost all of the information in their offices. 
  • Flooding damaged appellate files, evidence folders, and boxes of records at the Louisiana State Supreme Court and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • Records held at three circuit courts and local courts in eight parishes were damaged or lost.
  • At the time of Katrina’s devastation, there were 3,000 criminal cases in progress in New Orleans.

Hurricane Sandy (2013)

  • 9,800 barrels of DNA evidence held by New York police were lost.
  • 8,000 to 9,000 FBI boxes holding hundreds of documents were destroyed.

New York City Warehouse Fire (2015)

  • 85,000 boxes of paper records, including court transcripts, lawyers’ letters, medical records, sonograms, and bank checks, were destroyed.
  • The records of an astonishing one million court cases were incinerated.
  • Lawyers who stored records in the warehouse were sued.

Digitization as the Recovery Plan

The solution is digitization. By converting analog information to digital, companies can take advantage of existing IT practices to instate reliable backup and disaster recovery systems.

The vast amounts of paper records held by many companies and firms, when handled manually, can take a very long time and cost a lot of money to scan, index, categorize, and classify. Luckily, technology exists that can manage the logistical headache of record digitization for you.

Using robotics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, this process can be accelerated and leave your company with protected, searchable records in no time. Once paper records are digitized, they can be stored in a cloud-based records management platform that has disaster recovery built in. Additionally, records are rendered easily searchable, shareable, and trackable.

Build Immunity with Digitization

The potential loss of paper records shouldn’t be a source of anxiety for companies and law firms. Remarkable technology that can ensure record safety exists, and can revolutionize the way records are managed as well as safeguard them from the threat of natural disasters.

With digital records management (RM), lawyers and other professionals can easily protect and preserve their clients’ information and never worry about a large-scale loss of important documents such as those precipitated by extreme weather events. When records are digitized and stored in the Cloud, a disaster recovery plan is in place, as records are no longer reliant on the physical storage location in which they were housed.

Once digitized, records are immune to flooding, fires, and storms. They are also rendered easily searchable and shareable and can be accessed anytime, anywhere. Being able to rely on your records means that your clients can rely on you. Digitization plus cloud-based technology is the best way to ensure their safety in the face of unpredictable events.

Learn how Ripcord can help your law firm accelerate digitization efforts and aid your disaster recovery planning for paper records.

If you'd like to donate to those affected by the recent wildfires in Northern California, here are some resources:

  • The North Bay Fire Relief Fund, which was set up by California State Senator, Mike McGuire, and the Redwood Credit Union, to assist fire victims and aid relief efforts. 
  • Sonoma County Resilience Fund is an organization dedicated to raising donations to address the mid to long-term needs of Sonoma County residents and businesses impacted by the wildfires. 
  • The Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation is accepting donations that will go directly to agricultural workers and their families hit hard by the wildfires' impact on Sonoma’s famous wine industry. 
  • Napa and Sonoma County Fire Relief is collecting money that will go directly to the brave men and women fighting the fires. The funds will be spread out to organizations including Sonoma Valley and Fire Rescue Authority, Napa County Fire Department, and Lake County Fire and Rescue. 


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