Companies and public administrations generate everyday a multitude of documents, therefore a multitude of archives. These archives can range from a simple email to official document, including invoices, contracts, pay slips, etc.

Any type of document can be archived. One can identify three main reasons for storing archives:

1 – production of evidence (in the event of litigation),

2 – fiscal and social controls,

3 – and the preservation of the company’s memory (heritage dimension).


Trend for dematerialization of documents

The current trend is towards dematerialization or digitalization. This allows easier access to documents through EDM (Electronic Document Management) and within this EDM an archival brick can be included.

One will then usually distinguish two types of documents that can be archived digitally. So-called classic documents, such as an e-mail; and documents which are “proofs of something” (it is an extra-large category, indeed).

Documents with probative value

These documents are payslips, invoices, contracts, legal instruments, diplomas, and so on. That is to say all documents which need to be kept according to the local legislation, with the aim that the conservation of the archives is done in a perennial way and integrates by guaranteeing that the archived document corresponds well to the original and has not been altered during storage. This implies that it is accompanied by proof of its authenticity (also called “signature”). We thus know that a customer invoice must be kept for at least 3 years, the work accident files at least 30 years, the payslips 50 years … After such deadline, most often, the document must be destroyed and the company or public administration must provide proof of its destruction.

Legislation around digital archiving

This legal archiving with probative value is framed by standards and by law.

In France, for digital documents, the law of March 13th 2000 (article 1316-1 of the Civil Code) specifies that it has the same legal value as a paper document, provided that the author is duly identified and that the document is drawn up and kept under conditions such as to guarantee its integrity.

AFNOR Z42-013 and NF Z42-026 standards meet the means to be used. Indeed, these deliver a set of specifications concerning the technical measures and – above all – organizational measures necessary for the recording, storage and return of electronic documents to ensure their conservation and integrity.

There are several ways to keep these documents with probative value. Today, the Electronic Safe remains the most reliable in terms of security. In a world where cybercrime is increasingly present.

The electronic safe is nothing more or less than a tamper-proof, digital space in which the company can store all the documents it wishes. It then needs to define rules for access, drop in and drop off, and modification (as would be done with a steel safe.)

Several providers exist that offer these types of services. For a company that selects its supplier, it should be very careful not to be trapped in a technical solution or a single service provider. The company must be able to retrieve its safe and access its archives whenever it wants, even if the provider experiences difficulties (Who could say today that a provider will still be there in fifty years ? No one.) or changes its prices. Pay particular attention to solutions that make you pay today for storage over a very long period (ten years or more).

Archive the history and memory of the company

In addition to this digital archiving of documents with probative value, the company – and its management or owners – has an interest in thinking about archiving its own history: the people who work there, the products and services it produces, the places where it operates, etc. .

These archives do not respond to a legal obligation but rather to a memorial and human choice: knowing where one comes from.

This “historical” archiving can be organized and carried out by companies specializing in safeguarding and enhancing the memory and archives of companies. Their mission is to rediscover the memory of companies through several ways, in particular by retrieving archives (but also interviews, photos, valuation of productions, sites or other elements that are the pillars of the history of a company. ) and to promote them for internal or external communication and management purposes.

Archives can be managed in a different way. Today, there are still many companies that have “paper” archives classified and stored in cabinets or physical storage spaces (attics, attics, external storage providers).

It would be a mistake for a company or a public administration to neglect the management and enhancement of its memory and its archives. In addition to the legal obligations that can lead to action, a wise manager will have an interest in thinking and organizing, sometimes in a simple way, the generation and storage of documents that he wishes to see travelling through time without damage and being available for future use to the greatest benefit of his own company and his teams.