Stop Digging Through Old Records!

Tim Howard

Effective August 8, 2016, a new law (Chapter Law 226; HB 1395) means cities and towns can store certain files and documentation electronically, in addition to physically. You may be thinking that this is going to create a greater workload, but the reality is the workload will decrease. You will need to choose the right storage method or software and make the transition to electronic document storage; then challenges you face today will soon be a distant memory!

Top 3 reasons to move your records to electronic format are:

Microfilm machines are no longer easily accessible and are quite pricey.

Paper records and documents are EASILY susceptible to fires, difficult to maintain, and there is NO backup.

Secure physical storage may become increasingly difficult, and retrieving them from piles of documents could take hours, or perhaps days.

Paper records are not easily searchable. 

One person who was very active in the development of this new law is Shaun Mulholland, town administrator of Allenstown.  In fact, the Town of Allenstown was the driving force behind this legislative change and was instrumental in getting local legislators to introduce a bill on behalf of the town.

Mulholland pushed the issue for many reasons, including promoting more transparent government: “Over the last three years, Allenstown has been moving to a paperless process, eliminating paper anywhere we can. We sign everything electronically, and scan things to become electronic, with the goal of eventually having everything on our website for the citizens to have access to on a consistent basis.”

With the passage of Chapter 226, the process of retaining documents should be simplified.  The new law allows you to save files as PDF/A documents (ISO 19005-1 compliance standard).  At first, Mulholland said he was concerned the town would have to spend quite a bit to purchase multiple Adobe Professional Licenses in order to create a PDF/A version.  Fortunately, Mulholland was able to obtain a free version of Adobe Reader that was capable of creating documents in PDF/A format. Currently, Allenstown stores its documents and records in a network drive which is securely backed up in multiple locations. The goal is to eventually host these documents so the public can retrieve the files remotely and consistently.    

At this time, Allenstown is looking into software solutions for storing documents.  Mulholland reported that they have looked into a couple solutions, including DocumentMall and New England Document Systems. Although no decision has been made yet, New England Document Systems was a more attractive consideration because they price their services on your individual storage needs and are locally operated in Manchester.

From a technology stand point, there are a few other things for you to consider:

If you are going to store your files in a traditional network drive, you should make sure you have a modern security solution in place to prevent data breaches or viruses. Additionally, you will need a solid backup solution in place in case of a disaster like fire, accidental deletion, viruses, etc.

If you are going with a software solution, you will have to decide if an on-premise solution or cloud-based solution is best for you.

Benefits of an On-Premise Solution: You would not be paying the additional fees of a service subscription, and the data is easily accessible.

Benefit of a Cloud Solution: You can retrieve your data from anywhere, and you will not have to worry about managing the infrastructure. Additionally, you will most likely only pay for the amount of data you are consuming.

Whichever solution you choose, the ability to now electronically store records should greatly improve the storage and retrieval process of your public documents and records.

Tim Howard is President and CEO of RMON Networks, an IT Support Company (www.rmonnetworks.com) specializing in services for municipalities since 2002. He can be reached at 603-869-7323, or thoward@rmonnetworks.com.