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Managing Documents, Data and Information in the Digital Age

The importance of keeping your organisations sensitive information secure has always been a pivotal business function to maintain competitive advantage. Over the past decade we have seen an explosion in the amount of information being created, much of it of a sensitive nature and with it a growing recognition of information security as not only a key business function, but a social responsibility.

With the growing use and dependence on digital storage, cloud computing and mobile devices, the challenges have also become more complex. There is little room for error, with the consequences of insecure documents or IT systems having costly and damaging organisational implications, particularly when dealing with industries handling sensitive information. With these industries often handling various stakeholders’ data, the potential harm can spread beyond that of merely the organisation itself, a fact which has elicited increasing legal implications for organisations to consider.

2013 saw both unprecedented media attention and monetary penalty notices taken in relation to a variety of data protection issues. The year began with the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) fining Sony £250,000 for a breach of their PlayStation Network database which left user data such as names, addresses, dates of birth and payment card information at risk; A case which was well documented by the media. Since then the ICO continued to press on with financial penalties to a wide variety of institutions relating to breaches of the data protection act ranging from the loss of unencrypted memory devices, inadequate homeworking arrangements, re-sold hard drives, faxes containing sensitive data and the loss of sensitive information relating to accounting and legal documents. This year has already seen the European Union call for bigger fines for data breaches. With these being picked up by a variety of media sources, damaging effects to reputation are inevitable.

The effects of these cases has lead to organisations reviewing their obligations and compliance with the data protection act. In an ever more virtual world, where information is growing in size, accessibility and format, the challenge requires a sophisticated and holistic approach. Areas such as hard copy storage, IT data storage, mobile devices and correct disposal of information (on paper or media devices) are the key issues organisations need to address.

Fortunately there are benefits for organisations beyond merely protection from the potential damaging effects of a breach. Having an information security policy in place allows institutions to make information more easily accessible for those who need it, when they need it, where they need it and most importantly, securely. New technologies such as document tracking software offer increased traceability and security, while records management specialists now offer complete document management solutions throughout the relevant life-cycle of all types of files and documents.

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