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What is a Vital Record?

A vital record is distinguished by its necessity to an organization’s health. The word “vital” itself is derived from the Latin root “vita,” which translates to “life.” In other words, the “life” of your organization is often contingent upon safeguarding these records.

But why are they so important? Quite simply, vital records contain information that is paramount to maintaining operations in the midst of a crisis, shutdown or natural disaster.

They are records that will tell the story of your organization years down the road. They are unique to your particular organization and are almost always impossible to reproduce if lost or destroyed. Regardless of the format (paper, electronic file, film, etc.), vital records have specific preservation requirements and even more complex retention schedules.

 

Why Are These Records So “Vital?”

While they make up only a small percentage of your organization’s record population, vital records often carry more risk than entire warehouses full of non-vital records.

By locating, identifying and safeguarding your vital records, an organization get can back on its feet quickly after a disaster or unforeseen event.

On the flip side, an organization who does not take the proper steps to secure vital records is opening the door to litigation, damage to reputation, audits and many times the inability to continue business at all.

Consider Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable–in other words, who owes you money and who you owe money to. These are considered vital records, but don’t have as long of a retention period as others. The record of payment received and payment issued is the important part, but the invoice itself doesn’t need to be retained once it’s been paid. Conversely, if there is no record of payment received/issued, the invoice is still considered a vital record.

 

Secure Storage of Vital Records

You may have already identified vital records and have them stored in what you believe is a secure environment, but there is a long list of ways vital records can be destroyed or rendered useless because of poor storage methods.

For example, some paper stocks are better than others–some can suffer from discoloration, fragility, fading or succumb to the elements of the storage facility (mold, water damage, etc.)

Digital records are great in many senses, but if proper hardware and software updates aren’t routinely performed, these records are at risk of becoming obsolete as well. Even records in film format are extremely sensitive to temperatures and often deteriorate if not kept in a controlled environment.

If you are worried your organization may need help identifying and safeguarding vital records, contact the experts at Western Integrated Systems. Our team can walk you through the process of protecting these types of records with the highest level of security.