Step 5 of the Agreement Lifecycle: Contract Repository and Secure Document Storage
If you’re looking to set up a contract repository or just format secure document storage, let’s get started. How do you store important documents, like contracts, securely and easily?
In 2021, more businesses are moving to the cloud than ever before, says Gartner. In a time when resilience is king (or queen!), organizations are eyeing “composable solutions.” Or, ones that are the most flexible and consider the future.
Here’s how to store documents effectively and securely, so you’ll never worry about keeping important information safe again!
Basics of Secure Document Storage
Secure document storage is a broad term. A contract repository is a centralized space, either physically, or digitally, where documents are organized and kept.
Why bother? Outside of simply keeping data secure, a good repository helps productivity. When a new employee joins the team, there’s no lost productivity while this poor person tries to understand where all the contracts are!
There are many ways to store documents and contracts. But not all methods are equal. Let’s look at the most common storage types.
Paper Storage Contract Repository
Many businesses still use paper storage. This is the least secure, or efficient way, to store contracts. While it is free, obviously, it is the most difficult to keep track of and is vulnerable to physical damage.
Digitally on a Local Server
This is storage on a company server. It means that documents are only accessible to members of your company in this space. These are shared through email, or printed and mailed.
Want some more information on the agreement redlining process? Here is a free download, Best Practices for Contract Efficiency. Get your copy today!
Digitally and Scattered
This type of storage involves storage in separate spaces, or contract repositories. Finance may store contracts in one folder, while Legal or Sales stores theirs in separate folders.
Digitally and Cloud-Centric
This enables sharing, user access, search features and management from anywhere to anywhere. It’s a one-stop space for all documents, and contracts. However, for contract storage, it’s one more disconnected tool, which partitions the process, leaving room for errors.
CLM for Secure Document Storage
Contract Lifecycle Management software is a simple and secure way for organizations to manage a contract repository. There are many options in this space, depending on specific needs and budgets. Fewer emails, files, and platforms means better document security.
Where is Contract Storage in the Contract Lifecycle?
Contract management doesn’t end with a signature! Managed, secure storage is the next step. Then, tracking data, like renewals and deadlines, is the next, and final step in contract lifecycle management.
Here are the stages of the Contract Lifecycle:
- Drafting a Contract
- Internal Approval of the Agreement
- Contract Negotiation
- Signing the Contract
- Securely Storing the Agreement (this article)
- Tracking Contracts and Documents
Contract Repository Needs to Consider
Cloud-based storage is becoming the most common option for businesses today. It’s so easy to “link and sync” an app, it makes it hard to remember that certain security is still a consideration.
In 2021, the oldest data-breach hack is still one of the most dangerous: Phishing. From third-party app access, or by email, this remains one of the highest threats.
Compliance for your industry or business is essential. In recent years, for instance, Europe’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) are standardized compliance measures EU companies must meet, to protect personal data.
Three Steps to Better Security
No matter the size of your organization, secure document storage should include these three aspects, advises Wired:
- Strong security access
- Notifications for access oversight
- A defined audit practice
Strong passwords and two-step authentication are good security practices. Sign-on notifications also help you track any user access in real time. And, mitigate risk by following a security audit practice, and deleting old devices, and users who no longer need access.
Here are a few more features to look for when selecting a system.
Look for Powerful Search Features
One of the biggest reasons that organizations decide to formalize their contract repository system is simply that it’s difficult to find documents. With a traditional spreadsheet system, you can search by title or a few attributes. That isn’t enough to truly help you maximize your data.
You should be able to sort and search for contracts in many ways:
- Instant results based on contract type, vendor, or any customized category
- Sorted by terms or deadlines
- Search by file type information (such as a PDF)
- OCR or Optical Character Recognition, or “full-text scanning details”
Do you need to find all of your SOWs so far this year? Or maybe you want to search for all contracts with a particular client, and look-up deadlines.
Sorting in search helps you forecast and then plan for future next steps. For example, what was the busiest month for contractor work, or a certain product? Or, what are the annual trends in expenses, or for revenue?
Concord’s powerful search features ensure you can find any contract, in a variety of ways. See how Global Search works for your business.
Does the Solution Keep Collaboration Nimble?
Storing contracts securely is one thing, but what about when you need to collaborate on them? Your storage method should facilitate sharing AND editing contracts with your third party.
A secure contract database allows your business to collaborate easily. A great storage solution should let you to give access to users for documents, or for folders. Even more awesome is the ability to create user-access groups.
Alternatives to Dropbox
Dropbox allows you to share, save, and search, and to do so securely. However, using it without a contract management software causes digital disconnects.
But you may still be tracking contracts on a spreadsheet, or in a non-collaborative manner. And, you may pay more as your storage needs grow, too.
Concord’s CLM software connects every tool you need to manage your contracts. Connected tools equal more efficiency and lowered costs.
When it comes to security, Concord is SOC-2 compliant, which is the highest level of security standards for cloud-services. Data is protected from outside parties, and compliance includes high standards of internal security, too.
Concord allows you to do the following:
- Draft a contract
- Bulk upload contracts
- Receive secure notifications
- Gain legal e-signatures
- Retain unlimited storage
- Track any data
- Customize reports
Better Document Storage and Contract Repository Tips
What are the best ways to find data more easily?
1. Think Before You Format!
Folders are the first place you should set permission controls. So, plan folder and sub-folder structures according to roles.
2. Make a Standard Naming Convention
Create a company style-guide for document naming conventions, so everyone’s on the same page.
For example: [Contract Type] – [Client] – [Month and Year]
3. Take Time to Understand Tagging!
Also, include a standardized tagging structure in your company style-guide.
Tagging is not the most secure point for permission. That should take place when you create a folder. Instead, tagging helps you sort and find contracts more easily.
Tagging makes it simple to group contracts. But it allows you to report on these, too.
Contracts can be tagged by contract type, internal department, or major business vendors. Like this:
#HR or #SOW or #ACME
However, you may want to work with finance on how best to organize these for search and easier audit reporting.
For quicker search, use tags to search by:
Really, you can search in almost any way that works for you or your business.
Anticipate Renewals and Deadlines
You might want the option to run date-based reports, or vendor-based ones. Or, to create conditional reports, which allow you to make decisions based on forecasts.
In that same vein, plan with the end in mind!
Work with Finance, Sales, or Legal to determine the kinds of reports your business will likely need to access. Contracts are a primary source, so direct reporting from these is highly valuable.
What’s the most important takeaway? Storage should make search, collaboration and tracking easier and secure. However, a secure document storage solution starts with a well-crafted, legal contract!
Bookmark Concord’s Free Template Center, to download common contract templates for better business.