Digitizing records and documents to connect online and generate paperless documents has a ton of benefits for many industries.
But when generating paperless documents, data security is an essential part of the operation.
A paperless company needs to prioritize data and customer information security in its workplace in all parts of its operations. From document creation to legally compliant document archival or destruction.
And below, we’ll cover some of the best data security standards and practices to keep in mind when generating paperless documents.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What Is Data Security And Why Is It Important?
- Security Measures To Safely Generate Paperless Documents
- 7 Best Data Security Standards And Practices To Keep In Mind When Generating Documents
What Is Data Security And Why Is It Important?
First things first, what IS data security, exactly?
Data security is the practice of preventing unauthorized access, corruption, or theft of digital information throughout its entire lifecycle.
Typically, the 6 crucial phases of a successful document management lifecycle include:
- Document creation.
- Editing or indexing for search.
- Sharing or delivering the document to the right user.
- Active use of the document.
- Legally compliant deletion or archival of the document.
Through each step, the chances of sensitive customer information being leaked get higher with each step.
It’s essential you’re following best security practices and data standards to protect your company.
Why are data security standards important for a paperless office?
When properly implemented, robust data security strategies protect an organization's information assets from insider threats and human error.
Since those 2 factors continue to be among the leading causes of data breaches today, it’s important your security standards are top of the notch.
Data security entails deploying tools and technologies that improve an organization's visibility into where its critical data is stored and how it is used. Ideally, these tools should be able to apply safeguards such as encryption, data masking, sensitive file redaction and more.
In addition to security standards and safety, the right document management software should also help you streamline business operations.
Types of data security and protection
Before we discuss security standards, it’s worth going over general security and data protection types. Which are as follows.
Encryption keys scramble data by using an algorithm to convert normal text characters into an unreadable format that only authorized users can read.
File and database encryption solutions protect sensitive volumes by obscuring their contents through encryption or tokenization. The majority of solutions also include security key management features.
Data erasure, which is more secure than standard data wiping, employs software to completely overwrite data on any storage device.
It confirms that the data cannot be recovered.
Organizations can allow teams to develop applications or train people using real data by masking data.
It masks personally identifiable information (PII) where necessary so that development can take place in compliant environments.
The ability of an organization to withstand or recover from any type of failure.
From hardware issues to power outages and other events that affect data availability.
The rate of recovery is critical for minimizing the impact.
Document audit log and trails
A digital audit trail is a chronological record or set of records that provide sequences of business transactions and times.
This also acts as proof of all essential business and documentation activities. Such as, who created the document, who opened or edited it last, and more.
To take this a step further, you can also set up user roles and permission settings. This way, only specific people will be able to access, view, or edit certain documents and files.
If you’re handling a lot of sensitive customer information, this is essential to prevent it from being leaked.
Security Measures To Safely Generate Paperless Documents
Paperless documents are far more convenient and easier to organize than paper documents. Improved access to your documentation is a major motivator for implementing a paperless management system.
It’s much cheaper as well, when it comes to document management.
According to Gartner Research, on average, it costs around $120 to find a misfiled paper document. If the document was not found, however, it costs around $220 to reproduce it from scratch.
HTML to PDF rendering is the foundation of many core processes in many industries.
This is based on the fact that most customer information and data initially come in HTML format. Then, with the right software, you’ll be automatically converting them into PDF documents.
So, for example, when a customer fills out an online form on your website, you get all of their information in HTML text. Such as their name, company, address, and other sensitive information.
Then, you can create a templatized document proposal based on that information.
This works for business proposals, contracts, confirmation letters, request forms, and other common document templates.
Here’s a sales proposal document template example from HubSpot.
To safely generate documents, you should follow below best security measures such as:
- Password protection.
- Digital watermarking.
- Document expiry, self-destruct, and restriction of access.
- Digital rights management: Restricting copy, print, or forwarding.
- Document tracking of who viewed, edited, or shared a file last.
- And more.
Now, let’s take a look at some other security standards and measures you should be following when creating paperless documents.
7 Best Data Security Standards And Practices To Keep In Mind When Generating Documents
Before diving into the data security best practices, let us understand what are security standards.
Security standards can be defined as a set of rules for products or processes that provide consistency, accountability, and efficiency.
These standards are designed to provide a repeatable way of doing things.
The use of written standards can be based on compliance and best practices. This enables organizations to make objective decisions concerning the implementation of security devices.
The principal objective of security standards is to reduce the risks, including preventing or mitigating cyber-attacks.
Here are some of the best data security standards you should be following when generating documents.
1. Start a clean desk policy
Employees should follow a clean desk policy to ensure that all information (both paper and digital) is cleared, locked away, or password-protected when they leave their desks.
This way, no stray eyes will be able to steal sensitive information.
In addition, never leave your computer on overnight, or even during a long meeting or lunch break. This is also true for iPads, laptops, phones, and other portable devices. Because digital devices are just as vulnerable to a breach as desktop computers, they should be held to the same standards.
Some components of a clean desk policy include:
- Workstation policy.
- Remote worker policy.
- Software and cybersecurity.
- Handling of physical documents.
- Follow-ups in case compliance measures are not met.
2. Install SSL protocols
An SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate is a type of digital authentication that confirms the identity of the server and allows for an encrypted connection.
It's an extra layer of security for your document management system that prevents information between the source and the user from being read or modified while a file is accessed, uploaded, or modified.
3. Set up custom permissions
Custom permissions are an important security feature to consider whether you are looking for a document management system or already have one in place. Too many employees have access to items that they do not require to do their job.
With custom permissions, each employee has a tier of security that allows them to access some document types but not others.
Important information is thus compartmentalized except for the most trusted levels of the organization.
4. Shred digital files
When a sensitive digital or paper document is no longer required, shred and destroy it as soon as possible!
The same is true for hard drives and even computers.
Shredding paper documents with a paper shredder is simple, but how do you destroy hard drives or devices?
Though you can purchase a machine designed to disassemble electronics and any information contained within, many organizations will hire a company to do the work for you.
They'll even give you a document stating that your sensitive information has been permanently erased.
Legally compliant archival or document deletion is an essential part of security standards.
Learn more on how document automation works for more info on improving the security of your documents.
5. Educate your team about data security
Understanding and adhering to proper document security protocol should not be limited to your company's IT team, department heads, leadership, or those in close contact with its most sensitive information.
Everyone, from the top down, should be thoroughly educated on password security, phishing scams, clean desk policies, document destruction, and more.
However, not everyone should have access to the most sensitive customer information and internal company data.
As mentioned above, one data security option to consider here has to do with user roles and permission settings. This way, in addition to educating your team on data security, you’ll be able to track the steps of important documentation in detail.
6. Sync files with integration
Data integration is an essential component of modern business technology.
When an organization uses multiple technology systems, the ability to push and pull files between them and update them is almost always a requirement.
Meanwhile, inaccurate and incomplete data can wreak havoc on operations.
A lack of version control can also create more opportunities for employees to inadvertently mishandle sensitive data, which can lead to a security breach.
Typically, document control tasks and procedures often include:
- Version control.
- Document review.
- And the cancellation of replaced documents.
For a detailed breakdown of each security standard when it comes to document control, see our full guide on document control management.
7. Maintain data order
At the end of the day, much of cyber-security revolves around controlling and monitoring information flow. But it's also important to remember that these functions rely on a thoughtful and organized approach.
Security permissions are useless if you don't know what should be restricted, and redactions are useless if they are inconsistent.
Keeping things in order is the best way to tell if something is wrong.
So, be sure to consider the following steps when developing a document security plan:
- Take the time to properly plan out your document filing structure so that everything stays organized and you avoid losing data and duplicating filing.
- Make sure your organization has a permission tagging system that is simple to use and consistent. This is also important when it comes to using metadata in HTML to PDF conversions.
- If you use a cloud-hosted platform, make sure to backup your data on a regular basis.
- Keep no more data than is required for operations, especially if it contains personal information or financial records.
- Set up a schedule to safely purge records when they are no longer required.
Where To Go From Here
If you're wondering why don't all businesses implement paperless solutions when their advantages are so compelling…
The underlying reason is that there are a few key challenges when it comes to going paperless and software security standards.
But with the right document management systems, a lot of security issues become a breeze.
In addition to the highest security protocols and procedures, you also save a lot of time and money with automated document generation.
Now, if you’re interested in how safe document generation can help your company specifically, be sure to see our full guide on automated document generation.
Read on for a detailed breakdown of the most common document templates, top 5 benefits, how document generation can help your industry specifically, and how to get started with automated and safe PDF document generation.