Are Australia's businesses keeping their physical financial information safe?

Are too many businesses forgoing best practices when getting rid of physical documents?

The modern world has computerised many processes. When it comes to paperwork, reams and reams of documents that would have been found in filing cabinets are now stored on hard drives. 

However, while the vast majority of businesses feel at home digitising their processes, many still rely on physical copies of documents to varying extents. Whether it's a case of not being comfortable putting everything in the technological space, or if it's because the companies practices simply have to be recorded by hand, paperwork in one form or another is here to stay.

The popularity of paperwork in a digital world

Naturally, much of this information can be sensitive, whether it comes from customers or within the business itself. Consequently, confidentiality and security are key, but are enough Australian enterprises following best practices?

A recent survey collated by document disposal service Shred-it appears to suggest otherwise. In fact, 97 per cent of large companies and 83 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are only somewhat aware of the security procedures surrounding confidential document disposal.

Each record a company misplaces could cost it as much as $144.

Now, those figures may sound relatively positive, but it's important to consider the amount of money that's at stake if records are stolen or lost. In fact, Shred-it found that each record a company misplaces could cost it as much as $144. 

That figure quickly adds up in the face of multiple records going missing. The total average cost of a widespread security breach lies at $2.8 million. Some larger enterprises may be able to afford to lose that amount of capital, but the improper disposal of files could have a huge impact on the financial health of the average small business.

"The biggest concern was the fact that small and medium-sized businesses don't have a policy or procedure in place to handle ­secure information,'' explained Shred-it Australia general manager Eric Konicki, as quoted by The Australian.

Getting best practices in place

Naturally, bookkeeping and accounting materials will be the top of the list for nefarious parties. SMEs in particular need to have a sound set of document disposal practices in place, even if much of their work is now being done in the digital space. CIO highlighted the following:

  • Only keep documents as long as needed.
  • Don't shred documents out of turn – devise a systematic plan.
  • Use a designated file destruction service if things get out of hand.

While that list is by no means extensive, it is certainly a good starting point. At the end of the day, financial figures – whether they be that of the business or its customers – simply have to be protected in the face of today's growing threats.

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