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What if a disaster struck your office building - By Desjardins

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If a disaster struck your office building, would the operations or even the very existence of your business be threatened by the loss of its documents and records?

All businesses have valuable documents such as contracts, invoices, accounts receivable, databases, records, manuscripts, historical documents, architectural plans, etc. All of these documents must be protected against the risk of destruction.

Certain measures can be taken to reduce the risk of losing valuable documents or records. As for document retention schedules, they vary depending on the type of document (e.g.: legal, tax, social, etc.).

Safes and vaults

  • It is important to protect your valuable documents against fire or theft by keeping them in a place such as a safe or a vault. For notary offices, safes or vaults must be moisture proof and able to withstand fire for a minimum of one hour at 927 degrees Celsius.
  • After each use, all documents must be stored in a safe or vault as soon as possible.
  • Finally, you should keep in mind that valuable documents can also be damaged by water from automatic sprinkler systems. For that reason, it is better to have a dry chemical extinguishing system.


  • In addition to freeing up office space and reducing archiving costs, scanning lets you quickly access documents, even from outside the office. It also helps reduce paper handling, which can contribute to long-term document deterioration.
  • All documents can be scanned, but in some cases, the original should not be destroyed. It must be kept in a safe place, just like scanned documents.
  • Furthermore, when documents are scanned in order to do away with the paper copies, the transfer from one medium to another must be done in accordance with certain conditions under the Act to establish a legal framework for information technology and the Règlement sur la tenue des dossiers et des études des notaires (regulation respecting recordkeeping and notary offices).
  • Businesses can scan the documents themselves or use the services of a subcontractor specialized in the field. Whether you use the services of in-house employees or a subcontractor, a confidentiality agreement should normally be signed to protect the sensitive data being scanned.

Backing up and archiving

First, it is important to differentiate between backing up and archiving:

  • Backing up means duplicating scanned documents that can be modified or replaced. It is generally used to meet short-term needs.
  • Archiving means storing scanned documents for a long period of time for legal, historical or information needs. Scanned documents are archived for varying periods of time depending on their value.

With today’s computer systems, it is easy to copy daily accounts receivable and transfer the data to a second computer at another location.

Electronic copies of documents and invoices should be made every day. However, certain conditions must be met when documents are stored on a computer medium. Here are few:

  • Access to data must be protected by password, which should be created following best practices.
  • A register of individuals who can access and make changes to documents must be kept.
  • Finally, it is equally important to store computer data in the safe or vault of your business.

By Desjardins

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