While it seems as though everything is captured online in some way, shape or form, there’s a proper way to create documents and records. In order to protect your security and business, documents and records should be managed and created to adhere to legal and privacy standards. A best practice in the industry, properly managing your documents and records can protect you from being liable in the event of an audit or lawsuit. But what constitutes a document vs. a record? It’s time to learn the difference in order to protect your business.
In order to get to the nitty-gritty of what a document is and how it can be used, let’s take a step back and define the term. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a document is:
- “an original or official paper relied on as the basis, proof, or support of something”
- “something (as a photograph or a recording) that serves as evidence or proof”
Just by looking at the definition, you might assume that any document containing dates, conversations or other evidential material would be a valid indisputable record in court. Not so fast. According to Athento, an intelligent document management software company, “a document may be a record, but not all documents are records.” You can see how someone might be confused. Think of it this way. A document is a work in progress and should be managed in a way for users to capture, edit and easily distribute information. A document is editable and therefore doesn’t necessarily have to adhere to industry, government or other regulatory standards.
Records are an official file that clearly delineates terms and conditions, statements or claims. Again, before we jump in, let’s actually define the term:
- “to set down in writing: furnish written evidence of (2): to deposit an authentic official copy of”
- “to register permanently by mechanical means”
- “to cause (as sound, visual images, or data) to be registered on something (as a disc or magnetic tape) in reproducible form”
Records can be captured in several different ways, but most importantly, it should be a completed and managed in a way that’s compliant with industry, federal and state guidelines. Be sure to have both digital and hard copy records securely stored. Because records usually contain highly sensitive information, and, as outlined above, cannot be recreated or editable, a backup storage or management system should be in place. There are several Records and Information Management (RIM) systems available, and, depending on the goals and nature of your business, can help you effectively and securely manage your records.
How do you manage your company’s documents vs. records? Are there RIM and DM systems you find to be more effective than others? Please share your comments and thoughts below!