Records Storage Systems

Last week we spoke all about File Integrity, confidentiality and security.  This week we look at the different record storage systems.

Record Storage

(a)  Subject storage method

The subject storage method is widely used in organisations.  Filing by subject requires that each record be read completely to determine the subject which can be a time-consuming process.  This method is difficult to control because one person may read a record and determine the subject to be one thing and another person may read the records and decide the subject is something entirely different.  Example:  One person who classifies records about advertising promotions may determine that the subject is advertising while another person may determine that the subject is promotions.

The main subjects are indicated in the primary guides in first position.  Secondary guides indicate subdivisions of the main subjects.  A subject folder holds records for each secondary guide.  A general folder holds other records for that subject that do not have enough records for a separate subject folder.

A subject system can be direct or indirect access system.  When the system is direct, the subject file is a simple one (with only a few subjects) and access can be obtained directly through its alphabetic title.  Keeping the subjects in alphabetical order is necessary.

Most subject systems are more complex and require some type of index.  An index is a listing of the names or titles used in a filing system.  Without an index, it is almost impossible for the subject storage method to work well.  The index may include several levels.

(b)  Alphabetic storage methods

The alphabetical storage method uses the letters of the alphabet to determine the order in which a record is filed.  This is the most common method used for storing records.  Records are filed according to the Filing Rules and Standards discussed later.  Special guides used to lead the eye quickly to a specific area of the file are in second position.  A general folder holds records for names that do not have enough records (usually three to five records) to warrant an individual folder.

Records in the folder are arranged alphabetically.  If there are two or more records for the same name, the records arranged by date with the most recent date in front.

Advantages of an alphabetic system include:

  • It is a direct system. There is no need to refer to anything except the file to find the record
  • The dictionary arrangement is simple to understand
  • Misfiling is easily checked by alphabetic sequence

(c)  Numeric storage method

 Under the numeric storage method records are given numbers and are arranged in a numeric sequence when stored.  The numeric method is particularly useful to the following organisations:

  • Insurance companies that keep records according to policy numbers
  • Law firms that assign numbers to cases and/or clients
  • Real estate agencies that list properties by code number

A physical numeric file has four basic parts:

  • Numeric file
  • Alphabetic general file
  • Alphabetic index (a file containing the names of individuals, organisations and companies with the number that has been assigned to each one)
  • Accession log (a file containing a list of the numbers that have been used.

In practice, here is how the numeric method works:

  • When a document is ready to be filed, the alphabetic index is consulted to get the number that corresponds to the name by which the record is to be filed.
  • The number established is placed on the document – the document is placed in the numeric file
  • If the filing name is new and no number is established, the document may be placed in the alphabetic file until there are enough records for this name to pen an individual numeric file
  • If it is necessary to establish a new numeric file, the accession log is consulted to determine the next number to be used.

(d)  Geographic storage method

Another variation of an alphabetic system is the geographic storage method in which related records are grouped by location.  Geographic filing is considered a direct method if you know the location of the file needed.  If you do not, it is an indirect system and requires a separate geographic index file in a physical system or the appropriate keywords (unique identifiers) set up for an electronic system so you can query the system in a variety of ways.  Geographic filing is particularly useful for these types of organisations:

  • Utility companies for which street names and numbers are of primary importance in troubleshooting
  • Real estate firms that track listings by area
  • Sales organisations that are concerned with the geographic location of their customers
  • Government agencies that file records by state, county or other geographic division

(e)  Consecutive storage method

In the consecutive storage method, also called serial or straight number filing, each digit is an indexing unit.  The first digits of a number are compared to determine filing order.  When the first digits are the same, the second digits are compared and so on.  The numbers used may be part of the record itself, such as a number on an invoice, or the number may be written on the record.  As each new record is added to the system, the number assigned becomes higher.

(f)   Terminal-digit storage method

The terminal-digit storage method is another variation of numeric filing.  In the basic numeric method, as the files increase, the numbers assigned become higher.  Each new file needs to be placed behind all the low numbered files, which means that the file arrangement expands at the back.

This arrangement can be inconvenient.  One alternative is the use of terminal-digit filing in which a number is divided into three groups of digits.  Example:  129845 becomes 12-98-45.  By adding zeros to the left of a smaller number, three groups are created.  The number 68559 becomes 06-85-59.  The purpose is to indicate primary (first), secondary and tertiary (final) groupings of numbers.  These primary, secondary and tertiary numbers tell the location of the record.

Which one do you think would be the best in your office.

Next week we will be starting our new theme – to make you ready for all those end of year functions, we will be looking at Networking for Success, discussing topics like

  • Scripting yourself a 30 second introduction
  • Avoiding networking pitfalls
  • Conversation do’s and don’ts

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