In a small business it is easy to forget the importance of maintaining accurate records. These records need to be kept far longer than the time they are active. Even after an order is completed and fulfilled or, in the case of a purchase from a vendor, after you have received and fully paid for the merchandise and service, all records will need to be maintained. The typical rule of thumb is 7 years, however there are certain regulations that may increase or decrease that period. In some professions you are required maintain the records indefinitely.
There are numerous reasons for maintaining these records but the most obvious one is for tax purposes to verify your tax reports, which may be audited several years after initial filing. Billing disputes and warranty disputes can also happen years later. If a vendor you do business with goes bankrupt and does not have adequate records of its own, the court may order you to prove proof of payments as it attempts to recover money for the creditors of the defunct vendor.
In the first year or two of business record keeping is of little issue as you are simply filling a file cabinet or two. However, as years pass by the storage file boxes begin to stack up and soon the office space is being overrun. With the cost of commercial space as high as it is, finding an alternative to bigger offices or reduced retail space to accommodate more storage is not cost effective. Rather than choosing those options it is more efficient to look at easy access self storage options.
Using low-cost self-storage facilities you can get enough storage for years of back files to be in labeled files boxes at minimal cost. These older files do not need to be retrieved with great frequency, but if you ever need them they will all be readily available. Many business owners keep copies of newer records or store weekly backups electronically to server and hard drives as well. This provides protection against devastating loss of paper records in the event of fire, flood, or other natural disaster.
If you choose to store records in self-storage facilities check for pertinent government regulations on security requirements. Things like medically relevant records or certain financial records may require double layer security. This simply means either gated access in addition to the lock on the door or to be stored within locked containers inside your storage area.