Information Technology Management with a Purpose

Nov 21 2011   3:53AM GMT

Microfilming records: A three-step guide

S R Balasubramanian Profile: S R Balasubramanian

If we are convinced about the usefulness of microfilming the old records, the next step will be to work out a justification and make up a case for introducing this in the organization. So let us discuss the steps that we need to go through.

Have a valid financial justification

The first step is to identify documents which can be candidates for microfilming. For example, old accounting records that are, say, more than three years old (i.e. post statutory audit or those not required for MIS purposes), can be taken up. This would include all ledgers, vouchers, and other supporting documents. Other examples would be records related to Sales Tax, Excise, or old shareholder transactions. We need to emphasize on the advantages to the users like freeing up of storage space and ease of access. In the organization that I put this system in, we could give up a storage space hired for keeping these records and we could access old records which was an uphill task earlier.

Our old documents, even if archived, reside on magnetic tapes, cartridges, low cost disks, etc.; but these are expensive and less reliable as these media deteriorate over long periods of time. Microfilms on the other hand are less expensive and have much longer life. Financial justification can therefore be easily worked out.

Define the process

Organizations usually start with converting old documents in physical form as it helps in converting the bulk of documents into a single film tape / cartridge. The process is to be done carefully and it is best to outsource this activity to external agencies who are experts in this process. You have first to classify documents, number them, and then convert them in the right sequence. You can classify them on the basis of document type, year, etc. When converted, all tapes will have to be properly indexed and labeled. It is necessary to exercise control to ensure that documents are not missed out and also that they are not duplicated.

To ensure authenticity, the recording starts with a document signed by the authorized person and similarly a document at the end signals the end of recording. Such a microfilmed record therefore cannot be tampered with. These records are accepted as evidences by various statutory authorities.

In order to access and read these tapes we would have to buy a film reader which converts the tiny films into a readable form through display on a screen attached to the reader. These machines are relatively inexpensive and therefore affordable.

Say goodbye to the old habits

After having converted our old physical records on films, the next step will be to avoid creation of new documents in physical form and so that we do not go through the entire grind once again. For example many organizations have stopped printing general / sub ledgers but may take one copy at the year end. It is here that we need to bring about a change – why not transfer the ledger directly from magnetic media to microfilm tapes. The technology available today makes this possible and so it is best to use this interface. The same principle can be applied to various documents that need to be held over long periods of time.

So here is a simple technology which can be gainfully used to solve a part of our storage problems. The process may seem difficult in the beginning but after the initial conversion, the ongoing process falls into a routine and can be easily managed.

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