A while back I blogged about protecting your computer data (i.e. files) [here]. But what about safeguarding your hard-copy (i.e. paper) documents... many of which can be just as or even more important that what's on your computers... especially, original versions of things like; Birth Certificates, Marriage Certificates, Automobile Pink Slips, Wills, Trusts, Home Docs, Social Security Cards, etc., etc., etc..
Everyone has some sort of hard-copy material to manage... whether bankers boxes full, a shoe box or two, or for minimalist like me, just about an envelope worth. In this post we'll chat about some things to think about in order to help you start practicing safe document:
Digitize your docs... everyone is doing it, "it's the coolest"
Encrypt your stuff peeps... otherwise, "Brother, you are going down."
Keep it safe... they "can target anyone, anything, anywhere"
Shred like the best, just remember "Soylent Green is people."
Fire fighting will destroy your stuff... "You can't negotiate with gravity."
Fire "safes" are not really "safe"... weird but true, so... "Secure that shit Hudson!"
Got your own safe... be sure they don't "Have fun storming the castle"
Don't be moist... Nobody likes a "You smell like a shoe" comment.
Safe deposit boxes... "You've got to know the rules before you can break 'em"
For me, the first step is to always make electronic versions of anything I need to save or want to protect. This doesn't mean I always shred the originals... it's mostly about immediately creating secure duplicates. This way everything is inherently protected through my backup systems which include things like secure Cloud storage and encrypted USB drives. Again, I bloviated about Cloud, backups, and data protection [here] ... if you really want to read more of my ramblings. Making things electronic is not that difficult, I simply use an iPad and/or all-in-one (printer / scanner) device. The scanner creates PDF docs or images right to my desktop. Additionally, I can use various Cloud Drive shortcuts (i.e. iCloud / OneDrive / Google) from my desktop to instantly access photos / scans from mobile devices.
Oh, before I go any further... if you've read previous posts, you know I'm a huge proponent of securing your shit. That means anything that's personal, private, sensitive, has identifiable information, etc., must be encrypted with strong (i.e. AES256+) encryption. Remember, encryption is not just about data "in-transit" (i.e. SSL), but is just as important for data "at-rest"... i.e., stuff sitting on your USB, SSD, DVD, hard drives, etc.. Also, just as important is making sure you securely & appropriately maintain your encryption key / passphrase to avoid losing access to your data forever. I've chatted about password managers before [here] so, won't ramble more about it here. Lastly, limit access to devices, especially smaller easy to steal / conceal drives, as controlling access is a primary line of defense against loss.
So, what about your hard-copies now? For items I can just keep digitally, once I've created redundant (i.e. not just one) backups, I simply shred that stuff which is no longer needed. Again, be sure to have redundant backups, which are obviously (noted above) secure and encrypted. Speaking of shredding, IMHO, one should shred anything & everything not needed, so that nefarious refuse can pilferers, recyclers, sorters, et al don't come across sensitive deets. There are lots of inexpensive shredders out there, but you should select one that shreds to indecipherable size... like a micro-cut or better shredder. Anyways, for stuff that requires keeping, it goes in my fire and water resistant safe. Luckily, today, there are plenty of well-known companies like Sentry and Honeywell who make reasonably priced fire-resistant safes for helping to protect your documents... nothing is guaranteed, but it's better than just leaving stuff a paper or plastic box which is guaranteed to burn... yikes!
Another VERY important consideration is that many newer fire safes offer water resistance, which is super-duper important since most fires follow extreme water inundation courtesy of your local fire department. Oh, yeah, another related consideration is drop / impact / blast / explosion protection which is also not uncommon on modern fire safes. Obviously, it'd be helpful if your safe stays intact falling from a shelf, having a roof drop on it, gas explosion, or being subject to the over exuberance of your local fire fighters who are often quite unconcerned with your property during a response... not a jab... no hate mail please... just a simple reality... I've seen it.
Also critical to note is that most fire safes are not "security" safes and generally not all that "safe" from theft. Most fire safes are easily pried open or subject to quick lock picking... but again, that's not their purpose... a fire safe's purpose is to help protect against fire damage. Over the years, I've purchased dozens of fire safes mainly for business, but also for personal use. While never having one tested... thankfully... I've found a huge variety of shapes and sizes from small units for things like passports and certificates to larger furniture-size for holding an entire file cabinet worth of files. Regardless, I always buy with maximum fire protection, water intrusion, and decent impact resistance. The key for me, which should be for most, is realizing that not all safes are created equal, so I stick to well-known reputable brands which among others are also UL Classified for fire protection and ETL Verified for water intrusion.
So, what if you've invested in a large premium home security safe that's not fire resistant. It could still be a solid option, so maybe just buy a small fire / water resistant chest to put inside of it. And if the safe has some basic protection, companies like Sentry (and many others) make fire-resistant document bags / pouches. They won't survive an incident on their own, but could possibly provide some protection when inside a decent first line of defense safe.
One of the mostest superest importantest things when dealing with a safe or sealed container of any kind, but especially while using a (sealed) fire safe is environmental control... especially from moisture. Being moist is not always a wanted thing. Moisture buildup in your safe can ruin all your contents, defeating the purpose entirely. So, mechanisms to keep them dry, like use of desiccant or silica gel packs / tubs are both essential and critical. Luckily doing so is easy and not expensive at all. If you buy from Amazon, you'll find many options there. Just remember, like your safe, always buy from well-known and reputable sellers. I put silica gel packs in every safe (and container that closes tightly) to prevent moisture from destroying the contents. I also buy silica packs that have indicators for replacement, but regardless if indicator is still good, I still replace them annually just to be safe. I've known others who've not heeded this recommendation and have opened safes full of unrecognizable wet moldy documents. Don't be cheap, don't be silly, use that silica / desiccant, and replace as needed.
Lastly, you ask... well, what about a safe deposit box? Personally, I've known lots of people that use them. You just have to evaluate what you think will be safer... a safe in your house or a box at the bank... maybe both... I dunno... it's all personal preference. Obviously, a bank can be robbed, destroyed, relocated, or even shut down. I have anecdotes of customers failing to keep current on payments, and even banks closing and/or relocating without good customer contact deets, which allows the box contents to be destroyed, auctioned, or escheated to the State. Seems to me that would be bad! So, if you use a safe deposit box, always check both your payment and bank status, at least monthly. I'm guessing if you put your stuff in a box, you likely don't want it going to auction or worse the government. Like anything else, stay current and be informed! And, if you have a trustworthy spouse partner, maybe consider having a second key holder as if you die, that box gets locked. Someone will need to prove death rights, which could be difficult if the Will is in the box.
That's it for now... if not mentally stimulating, hope this post was at least entertaining... thanks for stopping by today! 🐱💻 Always feel free to e-mail me comments. You can find my info on the "Team" Page.
DISCLAIMER: I'm just a guy who's been around tech and knows some stuff. I always remind others that what I say is purely FWIW, IMO, FFT, FYI, and many other acronyms... so while I strive to convey quality deets... you get no promises as to accuracy or validity of anything I write or say. I'm sure a lawyer would say; information not guaranteed, actual results may vary, and use at your own risk. Oh, I don't get paid from any brand to promote their product, so any mention of a brand is purely for illustrative purposes and not necessarily meant to be a specific promotion of them or their products. Now, if you're a brand that wants to pay me lots of cash... my e-mail is below. 😄