What comes to mind when you think of a filing cabinet? If you’re being honest, you’ve probably never given it much thought at all. Filing cabinets aren’t exciting; they are clunky, and you’ve probably seen the same ones in your office or board room for the past decade (if not longer). Nevertheless, filing cabinets have always been there, and while they aren’t the most efficient tools, they keep your valuable documents relatively safe and organized.
However, property managers and board members who are responsible for managing and maintaining invoices, meeting minutes, service requests, communications, owner data, budgets, and more, would appreciate a less tedious storage process. In fact, more of them are making the switch to digital document storage. Their only regret is that they didn’t make the change sooner.
Why condos and HOAs are making the switch to digital storage
There are many reasons why condo and HOA communities are turning to digital document storage, but the driving factors are cost, convenience and efficiency. One 2020 survey found that 68% of property managers use some form of document sharing and storage technology. Property management technology has been cited as a critical part of a successful long-term strategy for property management companies, and this applies to both commercial and residential property managers. As their clients continue to expect more from them, smart, user-friendly technology like online document storage helps property managers maintain a high level of service without having to double the size of their team.
File cabinets help keep documents crisp, but even with a really good organizational system, it will almost always take time to locate an item. Without a formal system, it can take half an hour to find what you’re looking for.
A digital storage and sharing platform will have a search bar so that you can pull up anything in a matter of seconds. No bending over and rummaging through file folders, and no papercuts either. New files can be created, labelled, and organized however the owner chooses. File access can be limited to groups or a few individuals.
There are fire-resistant file cabinets that cost thousands of dollars, but most have a price point of a few hundred dollars. The furniture isn’t very costly, but all of the paper and ink costs that come with condo or HOA management add up quickly.
With an online storage system, you can craft, send and save more electronic documents, and spend less on paper and ink.
Improved flow of information between the board and owners
Instead of asking owners to visit the management office or reach out to the board for forms, governing documents, and general community information, they can be directed to the appropriate online folder. Owners can access files from a central location whenever it’s most convenient for them, and can even read up on the latest newsletter or changes to rules from any device that connects to the internet.
Peace of mind
Some file cabinets have a lock and keys, or even keypad locks, but they are not entirely theft-proof. Similarly, if there were ever a flood or a fire, the cabinet may not protect against natural elements.
With a cloud-based storage system, items cannot get lost or be destroyed. Data is managed, maintained and backed up remotely, and most platforms implement top safety and security practices to ensure your clients’ information never gets into the wrong hands.
Moving to a digital document storage system
If you’re thinking about making the switch, consider these points when moving your condo or HOA from a physical to a digital storage solution.
Find the system that works for your team
Choosing a storage system may take some time. Depending on the size and needs of the community, you could look at a program like Box or SugarSync, or find a property management software system that has document storage capabilities.
An integrated system will allow you to do even more with the digital document storage feature. You could send out an email or announcement to all owners, and share a file link within the body of the message. This is a great way to ensure owners see newsletters, updated rules, important notices, etc.
When you run reports for budgets, service requests, security incidents, or anything else, you can save them in dedicated folders so that you can easily compare monthly or annual numbers, and share findings or results with the board.
Develop a system that everyone can follow
After making a selection, you will need to create some sort of system for uploading, saving and sharing. It’s easy to get disorganized, even using a digital system, if documents are uploaded without being properly filed away. If you are a property manager, make it clear if board members will be responsible for uploading their own documents, and how files should be labelled.
Ensure that the folders with forms are easy for owners to find and access. Finally, set time aside at least once a year to get rid of anything that the condo or HOA no longer needs.
Implement appropriate security features
Before placing any documents in your electronic filing system, you should address access and security concerns and procedures. Some documents may contain sensitive or personal information, data, or emails that should not be available to owners and residents. Take advantage of any security functionalities and give users access to only what they need. To keep data extra safe, you may want to ask all users to sign up for two-factor authentication so that even if someone gets ahold of their password, the intruder won’t be able to get to the information.
Don’t forget about the paper documents that already exist
A transition from paper to electronic will take more than a day to complete. All of those existing paper items sitting in the filing cabinets should be brought online so that they are as accessible and safe as everything else. Scan and upload the documents at a resolution of at least 300 dpi so that you can look at and print out the documents without having to struggle to figure out what they say.
You can still keep the filing cabinets when your community switches to an online document storage system. There will always be documents that you’ll want or need a hard copy of. But you won’t have to continue storing the same volume of paper documents anymore. Items like service requests, amenity booking forms, or meeting agendas can be filled out, shared and saved online.
Having an online system will save you time, and allow you to operate more efficiently. Instead of getting sidetracked and spending valuable time digging through old files, you can do a quick search from your computer or smartphone, find exactly what you need, and carry on with your day. You can access documents from anywhere, not just the office, and allow your team, clients, and owners living in the community to do the same.