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How security requirements may affect your business documents

May 2021

 

Whatever the nature of your business, it’s inevitable that it will generate significant documentation.

Producing, distributing and storing business documents in a secure, compliant way is just one of the challenges your organisation will face. Many of the documents in question will be business-confidential; others will be commercially sensitive or need to be stored in a certain way to meet regulatory requirements.

Best practice will vary depending on the industry you’re in and the type of document in question. Here, we explore how the requirements of security might affect the distribution and storage of your business documents.

 

What different types of business documents are there?

First, let’s examine the type of business documents you may need to distribute and store within your organisation.

The business documents your firm uses will depend on the industry you’re in, but there are some common documents that are used by companies regardless of sector:

  • Business plans and strategies. These are among your most commercially sensitive documents; your business plan and strategic goals give the framework for your organisation’s growth and development plans.
  • Accounting documents. Again, these are highly confidential business documents, providing an instant insight into the health of your business. They need to be kept for a certain length of time for tax and reporting reasons; secure storage is a must.
  • Operational and organisational documents. This category covers things like minutes from board and other leadership meetings; business continuity or disaster recovery plans; your annual report and accounts, and any other reporting required by legislation or industry regulations.
  • Customer documents. If your company sells products or services, you will have documentation relating to customer service, such as contracts and service agreements.
  • Marketing and sales documents. These could include brochures and other marketing literature, new business proposals and pitch documents.
  • HR documentation. This would include contracts of employment, and documents outlining your business’s HR processes and protocols. Health and safety policies would also fall into this category.
  • Investor information. This would include documentation like pre-IPO materials, investor presentations, trading updates and statements, and company results. Some of this will ultimately be in the public domain; other documents will remain for investor eyes only.

 

What security requirements do you need to consider?

When it comes to the security of your business documents, you need to consider two aspects: storage and distribution. The way you store and circulate business documents needs to be highly secure – after all, these are your most commercially important materials.

You also need to consider both physical and online storage and distribution, as the security aspects of both will differ.

 

Security considerations of business document storage

For hard copy documents, think about fire risk. Do you have appropriate precautions – alarms, sprinklers, fire-proof cabinets – to prevent damage in the event of a fire? Are physical documents also backed up in soft copy in case the worst happens and your paper copies are destroyed? If so, where is the hard drive kept? – it should be somewhere separate from any physical copies of your documents.

If your documents are soft copies, consider the integrity of your storage solution. Is it highly secure, with permission-based access, ensuring that only authorised users can see or edit documents? As with hard copy documents, your hard drives and servers should be located somewhere with adequate mitigation against fire, flood or other potential disaster.

 

Security considerations of business document distribution

Distribution of hard copy documents can, by its very nature, be less secure than soft copy. If you post out, for instance, board meeting minutes to your directors, there is a chance they will go astray, even if you are using a reputable service such as Royal Mail or a trusted courier.

Online distribution brings different, but no less significant, security issues. Like post, sending documents by email also incurs a risk that they will reach unintended recipients. For a best practice approach, you should share documents via a secure online platform with granular, permission-based access and two-factor authentication; virtual investor roadshows, for instance, provide a highly-secure solution for companies wanting to share investor presentations online.

In terms of both storage and distribution, you will need to adhere to data protection regulation, such as GDPR, ensuring your distribution methods are compliant, and that you do not keep any business documents containing personal data longer than necessary.

Outsourcing business document storage and distribution can make sense; you can rely on your provider to maintain the latest versions of software and ensure the highest levels of security, rather than having to invest yourself. Virtual data room providers can host your documents for you, delivering a secure solution to your document storage and distribution.

Distribution also extends to the way your business documents are disposed of – how are they dealt with when they’re no longer needed? All business documents should be securely destroyed, not simply thrown away or recycled.

 

Secure document storage and distribution made simple

Hopefully, this has given you some tips on the best ways to ensure your business documents are stored and distribution in the most secure way.

If you need to store and distribute investor information, Engage could help you. Engage is Perivan’s highly-secure online platform for corporate and investor information, allowing businesses to host, share and track investor documentation, including:

  • Pre-IPO transaction documents
  • Presentations
  • Roadshow information
  • Trading updates & statements

Engage can be used as a platform for holding investor roadshows, company results updates, AGMs and EGMs, as well as for storing documentation. You can discover more about Engage on our website, or just contact us for more information.

Nothing in this document should be treated as an authoritative statement of the law. Action should not be taken as a result of this document alone. We make no warranty and accept no responsibility for consequences arising from relying on this document.

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