When it comes to managing documents, there’s always a balance to strike.
Take document accessibility versus document security.
Giving people access to documents is important. But it’s also important to keep your documents safe from unauthorized (or malicious) hands.
So how do you maintain balance between those two needs? Is it even possible?
What is Document Accessibility?
Document accessibility is simply making documents available to your organization.
There are pros to making documents available to anyone. It makes it easier for everyone in your organization to do their jobs. For instance, customer service response times improve when a rep can pull up a customer invoice on a moment’s notice.
Making documents accessible is a simple enough idea. But it’s not so simple to execute—especially if you’re part of a global organization.
Some documents might still be kept in filing cabinets. Others might be stored haphazardly on network folders. There’s not a sure-fire easy way to find a document.
But you can change that.
Some ways to make documents accessible include:
- Digitizing paper documents (so no one needs to dig through a filing cabinet)
- Centralizing storage (so documents are easy to find and retrieve)
- Enabling access on mobile devices (so employees can access documents on the go)
But there are also cons to document accessibility. And those cons come in the form of security concerns.
What is Document Security?
Document security is the protective measures you put in place to keep your documents safe from hackers and insider threats.
Data breaches happen every day. And your documents are just as vulnerable as your data, according to Forbes.
First, you need to prevent outsiders from getting in. This means incorporating security controls to store your documents safely.
Next, you need to prevent insiders from making errors—accidentally or intentionally. This means ensuring that a click of button doesn’t delete or alter your document for good. And this means tracking who accesses which documents when.
Document security is important, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of accessibility. Your employees need to be able to access certain documents each day to do their jobs effectively.
How to Balance Document Accessibility with Document Security
It’s tricky to give your organization access to documents and still keep them safe.
Step 1: Get a Document Management System (DMS)
Today, business is rarely conducted in one location alone. Your organization probably has offices around the world—and each office is packed with people who need access to documents in order to do business.
If you have paper documents, those should be scanned into digital documents. (And then the paper documents should be shredded.) Digital documents should be properly indexed and stored in one central location, so they can be found.
Plus, implementing a centralized document management system makes it easier for employees to collaborate on documents. Add check-in and check-out capabilities so employees can work on a document (without having their changes overridden in real-time). And add routing and workflow capabilities to make it easier to pass documents back and forth.
Taking this step ensures your documents remain accessible to everyone in your organization.
Step 2: Prevent Document Security Risks
Once you have a DMS in place, you need to make sure access is locked down.
Put authorization measures in place so only the right people can access the documents. You can do this by restricting individual access to specific folders or files. This should be based on the need of the individual.
For instance, an employee’s performance review should be accessible only by the human resources (HR) team and that employee’s manager.
Another security measure to consider is requiring a login to view documents. This limits potential risk and ensures that only the authorized individual is viewing the document. (Unless, of course, the login is compromised—but that’s a-whole-nother security matter.)
Locking down access is an important step to balancing accessibility and security.
Step 3: Minimize the Impact of Document Security Threats
There will always be some document security risks that aren’t fully preventable. But there are proactive steps you can take to minimize the impact of those risks.
Take the risk of human error. You can’t control everything everyone at your organization does. Someone might accidentally enter text on the wrong document. Or someone might click the wrong button—and delete a document.
You can put measures into place to minimize the impact of human error. Version control is recommended to reverse inadvertent or unauthorized changes. Consider adding a control to prevent documents from being deleted, if that is a concern.
Taking this step is crucial to ensuring your employees don’t have too much freedom over the documents.
Step 4: Monitor and Make Adjustments
There may be changes you need to make along the way to maintain the balance. Perhaps you’ll need to extend accessibility further. Or maybe you’ll need to reign security in tighter.
Either way, you’ll need visibility over your documents (and how they’re being used) to make decisions.
Document visibility is a must if you want to know how:
- Many documents you have on a given day
- Frequently documents are added to the system
- Often documents are modified
- Many people are accessing documents
Monitoring and tracking documents and their usage is important to making sure you sustain balance over the long-term.
It’s Time to Balance Your Needs
And a document management system can help. You’ll be able to make documents accessible anywhere. And you can keep them secure.