In 2020, COVID-19 forced the abrupt closure of office buildings and set in motion a new culture of remote work for millions of workers and their employers. This sweeping adjustment brought many challenges, from team collaboration in virtual environments to accessing important company documents that may or may not have been digitized before the pandemic.

Because office spaces have been closed, companies have had to nimbly adjust not only where their employees work, but also where they are storing important documents. Many have transitioned from keeping hard copies on-site to a digital solution.

“The last year has seen quite a bit of change in terms of how businesses think about information management,” says John Sharpe, vice president and GM of sierra26 by Iron Mountain. “The rapid transition to remote work arrangements has made it really important for many businesses to have quick access to their information, irrespective of where their employees are actually sitting. So we’ve been seeing a lot of questions about digitizing documents for remote access. We’re also seeing many businesses eager to downscale their office space, and good information management practices, such as storing off-site, can also help enable those changes.”

Sierra26 is a comprehensive off-site document management service that offers secure off-site document storage, document digitization, digital storage, information management service, secure shredding and more.

As the country opens back up again, many working professionals are reluctant to go back into the office. According to the Pew Research Center, more than half of employed adults (54%) say they’d want to continue working from home all or most of the time even after the COVID-19 outbreak subsides. On the employer side, many have seen the benefits of telework in their bank accounts, as many have not had to pay for expensive office space or dedicated off-site records management facilities to house both employees and documents.

“If you have the ability to digitize off-site paper files and retrieve them electronically, you not only save space, but you also have a faster, more efficient way to access the information,” says Sharpe.

A box of paper by itself costs around $50, and this doesn’t take into account the cost of printing, copying, and storing each sheet of paper. According to Statistic Brain, there has been an increase of paper in offices by 400% compared to just 40 years ago. Office workers use an average of 10,000 sheets of paper per year.

This is why downgrading is very relevant for many of today’s small- to medium-sized businesses, many of which are operating on especially lean budgets after 2020. Storing vast amounts of paper-based records also holds many redundant costs — such as when businesses unwittingly hold onto and store documents well past their retention periods. Additionally, on-site document storage is often inefficient — accessing information can be unwieldy and cost employee productivity, even with a good management system.

While many businesses understand the advantages of digitizing their information management and storage, some feel intimidated by the seemingly daunting task of going from a paper-based business to a digital one.
In response to this, Sharpe suggests scanning (or digitizing) documents as needed, rather than all at once.

“It’s very costly to scan every page,” he says. “In many cases, businesses only actually need to view a small subset of their files, and it’s not always easy to determine ahead of time which files they’ll need. [What we can do is] ‘index’ physical boxes and files up front, essentially tagging them with key information so they can be easily identified when needed. Then, when [an employee] requests a digital retrieval of a specific file, we can pull out that file based on the index, digitize it, and get the electronic version quickly back to the requester. This is a fast and cost-effective approach.”

Additionally, Sharpe says along with convenience, digitization can offer strident security perks in the form of compliance with different industry guidelines, such as HIPAA and FINRA.

“Most businesses have had no choice but to make big changes — under immense pressure — in response to events of the last year,” says Sharpe. “And many businesses underestimate the security and compliance risks inherent in information management, and we’re here to help mitigate those risks.

Sierra26 is the first and only all-in-one off-site information management service — including off-site document storage, secure shredding, digitization and file scanning — designed for today’s small businesses. Sierra26’s parent company is Iron Mountain, the industry leader in storage and information management.