Ever sort through your files and wonder – do I still need this?
Some files, both personal and business, are required to be held and maintained for a given period of time. Most of these files fall into the “financial” category for tax purposes, e.g. receipts, registrations, etc.
In Canada, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) requires that businesses maintain their financial data and records for no less than “six years from the end of the last tax year to which they relate.” The CRA has published a “Keeping Records“ guide for Canadian businesses. Other regions (countries/provinces/states) have their own terms for financial records management. We recommend you research the requirements for your region.
Depending on your business, the records you must keep may go well beyond financials. Practitioners in professional fields (doctors, lawyers, etc.) have specific outlines for client/patient files as dictated by their respective governing bodies. Artists including writers, musicians, and designers who have registered intellectual property will also want to be certain that they protect the appropriate documentation for their work.
Safe Records Disposal
With the increasing frequency of identity theft and fraud, secure records disposal is paramount for both business and personal files.
For paper files that you are certain you no longer need; physical destruction of the files is recommended. Physical destruction can be accomplished through document shredding or incineration. Many businesses and home-based offices already have document shredders at the ready which are great at handling a few documents at a time. However, if you are looking to destroy a larger number of files, you'll likely want to consider mobile shredding services. Be sure to conduct due diligence and research thoroughly to ensure you’re working with a reputable company.
Digital destruction of data is quite a different story. Simply deleting a file from your hard drive does not mean the file is gone for good. In actuality, the file remains right where it was, though your system has reallocated its “space” as "available" for overwriting. Unfortunately there's no way to know when this "space" will be overwritten. To permanently remove a file from your hard drive (barring physical destruction) so that it is NOT recoverable you will want to look into “scrubbing” software or do a search for "deleting a deleted file permanently." We recommend you speak with your computer hardware or IT professional to help you choose the right product for you.