The Ultimate Guide to GDPR Compliant Document Storage

The General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, is a regulation by the European Union that was enforced in 2018. The GDPR is considered to be one of the most stringent data protection laws worldwide, and it sets down strict rules about how companies can manage, use, and store personal data. As part of these regulations, businesses must securely store and manage their documents and information, with the aim of protecting the privacy rights of their customers or clients.
In this article, we'll be exploring the ultimate guide to GDPR compliant document storage. We'll discuss what GDPR compliant document storage is, what documents are covered under the GDPR, and key considerations that businesses need to bear in mind when storing documents securely.

What is GDPR compliant document storage?

GDPR compliant document storage is a method of storing documents safely and securely while complying with the regulations set out in the GDPR. This means that all businesses must take the appropriate steps to store personal data securely and have their processes audited regularly.
The GDPR covers all types of personal data, including but not limited to names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, ID numbers, and financial information. Personal data could also be information such as medical or genetic data, religious or political beliefs, and sexual orientation.

What documents are covered under the GDPR?

All documents that feature personal data are covered under the GDPR. This includes data stored on paper documentation, such as employment contracts or client agreements, and data held electronically such as emails and spreadsheets.
When businesses store personal data both physically and electronically, it creates heightened security risk, particularly if your databases are accessed through online portals or cloud storage providers.

Key considerations when storing GDPR compliant documents

Setting up a successful system for GDPR compliant document storage will entail a variety of steps. These include:

1. Identifying what data falls under GDPR regulations

The GDPR outlines what personal data is, so businesses should first identify what data falls under their requirements. This means looking at all the types of personal data they store, and then finding ways to secure them. All data types and formats must be examined, including text, audio, video, databases, and images.

2. Encrypting data

Encrypting personal data makes it harder for unauthorized individuals to read it. Encryption adds extra layers of protection, and is especially important for data stored outside the office environment. As well as providing another layer of protection, encrypted data is not deemed to be classed as a data breach under GDPR regulations. However, businesses need to make sure that their encryption key or lock is secure and that only authorized users can access it. Otherwise, if the encryption key is stolen, then a third-party will have access to the data.

3. Regular data backups

Regular data backup procedures should be installed to prevent data loss and unauthorized data access. Businesses should conduct regular inspections of their server systems and use secure technologies to implement their data backup process. However, backups can also run the risk of data breaches if they are left unprotected or unencrypted. Employees should follow company-wide protocols and be provided with appropriate training to prevent the accidental deletion or misplacement of important information.

4. Health checks and audits

Regular health checks and audits can help to identify areas of weakness in the company's data storage, and potentially address these issues to make them more secure. Audits can also help identify suspicious activity and potential cyber threats; this means that businesses can take the required corrective steps on time.

5. Access control

Controlling access to personal data is essential for GDPR compliant document storage. Businesses can make various decisions to prevent unauthorized access to data, such as implementing two-factor authentication and limiting permissions based on a ‘need to know’ basis. Businesses should also have clear policies on how their employees can access personal data and what they can do with it.

6. Secure destruction

When businesses no longer require personal data, they need to follow the GDPR’s strict guidelines for data destruction. Data should not be thrown into the trash or recycled without being securely deleted. Secure deletion means using secured wiping applications, ensuring that all sectors of a storage device are erased before being destroyed. This often includes writing ‘0s’ or other patterns over the data up to several times, depending on the sensitivity level of the data.
In conclusion, GDPR compliant document storage is a crucial requirement for businesses that deal with personal data. By following these guidelines, businesses can protect their customers and their own integrity, preventing data breaches and unauthorized access to personal information. Being GDPR compliant is not an overnight process; it will take commitment, dedication and the right investments. However, since the EU GDPR is an ongoing regulation, businesses who choose to ignore it may be putting their reputation and financial standing at risk.

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