File folders, in which all business transactions have been documented and then filed away - in many offices, they pile up or gather dust on endlessly long shelves. This type of archiving not only consumes vast amounts of space, it is also time-consuming to organise.
More and more companies are therefore introducing digital archiving, for example for incoming invoices and incoming mail. Digital archiving can also bring you private advantages. This is especially the case if you have to file large amounts of data. In the following article, you will find out which advantages digital archiving brings with it and according to which specifications documents may be stored digitally.
Digital Archiving: Definition
The definition of digital archiving can be summarised as all measures for saving data and storing it in an online archive. Files of very different formats are stored, such as PDFs, text documents, graphics and others.
In electronic archiving, documents are stored on a digital data carrier, for example with archiving software. Digital documents are stored, but also papers that first have to be digitised for archiving. These are scanned and only then digitally stored in the archive.
Digital Archiving: Legal Requirements
When it comes to digital archiving, companies are basically free to choose the appropriate software. However, there are legal requirements for the type and duration of storage of business documents that are part of accounting.
The archiving of personnel files as well as contracts with customers and business partners must be carried out securely and well protected from access by third parties in accordance with the Data Protection Act.
All documents that are important for accounting or the tax office for possible controls and audits must also be archived for at least ten years.
Software for archiving should therefore fulfil the following principles in the business environment:
- Proper accounting (GoB)
- Proper computerised accounting systems (GoBS)
- Data Access and Verifiability of Digital Documents (GDPdU)
If you switch to digital accounting and only archive your income and expenses with digital receipts, the archiving software must be audit-proof. This ensures that you cannot make any subsequent changes to the invoices or expense receipts.
Only audit-proof software is recognised by the tax office in the event of a tax audit. If this criterion is not met, you must also keep all documents in paper form.
Digital Archiving: Advantages and Disadvantages
Not only is the filing of digital documents much faster than in paper form in folders. Data can also be retrieved quickly in the digital archiving system thanks to intelligent search functions. A short entry is all it takes to open the document you are looking for in the archive.
Whether digital archiving of incoming invoices, digital archiving of incoming mail or digital archiving privately - with the right archiving software you can store everything neatly and space-savingly as well as access it quickly at any time.
Digitally, all data is also safe from fire and water damage. File folders, on the other hand, could be destroyed in the event of an accident.
The disadvantage, however, is that there is the possibility of data loss. If documents are stored in the wrong place and not labelled correctly, it is also very difficult to find them. In addition, there is the cost of training staff in the use of the system as well as updates and maintenance of the archiving software.
As you can see, digital archiving offers advantages, but also has disadvantages - especially if it is not carried out in accordance with the regulations. Here you will find a summary of all the advantages and disadvantages of digital archiving:
- Quick and easy filing
- Effective document search
- Secure storage
- Protection against water and fire damage
- Secure against unauthorised access
- Possibility of data loss
- Untraceability of documents due to archiving errors
- New employees need to be trained in the archiving system
- Update and maintenance costs
Digital Archiving: Requirements
Archiving documents digitally requires more or less expertise, depending on the software. Most software programmes require training in order to meet all the requirements for digital archiving.
Since digital archiving must comply with legal requirements, there are other points that need to be taken into account:
Adhere to Archiving Principles
To prevent third parties from accessing important documents, all data must be archived securely and in accordance with legal and internal company requirements. All employees in the company who have access to the archive and store data in it must therefore always be brought up to date on the subject of data backup and the use of the archive software.
Documents must be recorded (scanned) as originals and complete with all pages. Attachments, images and other additional documents must also be archived. Regular system logs are helpful so that no document is lost.
Easy Access for External Auditors
If a tax audit or other audit by an authority is pending, your digital archiving must meet legal requirements and be easily accessible and well organised.
Change logs are a prerequisite to ensure that no one can subsequently manipulate filed documents. Every subsequent change is recorded and can be used as evidence.
All staff and client data must be particularly well protected against unauthorised access.
Documents are best filed daily in the archive so that no huge mountains accumulate. Prompt processing is recommended. It is best to scan everything immediately and save it properly in the archive so that other employees in the company can also access it quickly.
How quickly and efficiently a document can be retrieved later using the search function in the archive is already decided when it is filed. Here, the correct classification into categories is important.
Observe Retention Periods
How long documents must be kept in the archive varies. For most business documents that are relevant for tax consideration, the period is ten years. In addition, business documents can also be kept longer, for example data from long-standing customers and projects.
Electronic Archiving Systems for Various Industries
There are many electronic archiving systems. Some are more suitable for small companies, others for large corporations. Documents, files and folders are stored in document management systems (DMS).
There are also special archiving systems that can be adapted to the needs of different sectors. The software can be customised by combining different modules so that it is tailored exactly to the company.