How much paper do you actually have?

If you run a regular digital photocopier running individual pages then the chances are that you buy boxes of A4 paper. Such boxes are usually about 20cm deep and contain five packs of 500 sheets. 2500 sheets in total.

One way to work out how much paper you have is to see how many sheets you buy at a time, and how often.  Multiply by the number of years you have been buying at this level, and then knock off about 15% to account for the amount thrown away.

Of course some firms throw away far more than this, but 15% seems to be the average for a company. The rest goes into files and other forms of storage.

Most paper can be packed to a level of about 150 sheets of paper per inch (2.5cm). In terms of weight a sheet of A4, 80gsm paper (the type most of us use in printing machines and for photocopying) weighs about 5gm.

So a pack of A4 weighs about 2.5kg and a box of paper weighs around 12.5kg.

As a side issue you might like to note that 12.5kg is a fairly heavy item to lift unless you are lifting in exactly the correct way. Back injuries can easily be caused by lifting a box of paper.

Of course you might have a collection of filing cabinets – and these can come in all shapes and sizes, but a standard four drawer filing cabinet might have around 15,000 sheets of paper in it when full (although of course it does depend very much on how you divide up the paper using files).

Which then raises the question – what are you doing with all this paper? If the answer is putting it in more and more filing cabinets, it might be a good idea to consider putting some of it into storage – which is exactly why we are here.

There are more details on our website or give us a call on 0800 783 9516.

Why do we write things down?

We write things down as a way of transmitting information and as a way of recording information for the future.

Before it can happen you need a shared spoken language and a shared knowledge of how the writing reflects the spoken language. Once you have that, everything can start.

This very simple explanation of the reason for the existence of writing shows us how writing is different from the recording of other issues through symbols. We can have road signs, paintings, maps, and mathematical symbols – but the point here is generally you don’t need to know the spoken language to read them.

Indeed with road signs the idea is that you ought to be able to read them instantly, even if you don’t speak the language of the person who devised the sign.

But written language is different – more than anything it is the formal recording of our words and thoughts in a permanent way.

And permanent is the key point here, as I’ll try to explain.

Turning an oral system of communication into a written system is not natural. In some societies it doesn’t happen, and where it does it can be a slow erratic process. It seems obvious and natural to us in the 21st century – but it hasn’t been for most of the time that we have been speaking to each other.

What’s more, once written language starts it tends to develop much more slowly than spoken language. Most of us can still make sense of the language of Shakespeare, Marlowe, Ben Jonson etc, even after 400 years. And although the original writing of Chaucer looks strange 700 years later, if we work at it most of us can still get the hang of what is going on without turning to a modern translation from the original Middle English.

Which is why the storage of printed documents is so important – not just because they record agreements and contracts, but also because they give us a record of matters that happened in the past, in a way that we know we will be able to understand next year or the year after (which is not always the case with speech!)

That in turn is part of the reason why we store printed materials – because it remains understandable.

And that’s why people continue to use storage systems – for the safe keeping of their written records.

Which is also why we provide our safe storage system for documents.

There are more details on our website or give us a call on 0800 783 9516.

How many legal cases are there each year?

I have been told that around a million legal cases are heard each year by magistrates courts alone in England.

Well, “told” isn’t exactly the right word here since I found the number on the internet and it may not be 100% accurate – but it’s a nice round number, so it will do.

Elsewhere it seems that in 2009 the number of civil cases launched in High Court jumped by 25% over the previous year. Also in 2009 there were around 45,000 private law cases involving children heard in England.

Here’s another: the number of High Court commercial law cases is now at its highest for six years and still rising.

Actually I could keep going on this for quite a while. The number of Companies Court proceedings initiated in the Chancery Division jumped 54% from 15,079 in 2005 to 23,215 in 2006.

So, one might take it that legal cases are on the rise. As is the number of contracts – although I can’t prove this one. I typed, “how many contracts are issued each year?” into Google and there was nothing remotely relevant to the question anywhere.

Even those funny content farms which put up a million or more pages a month in order to get to the top of the Google rankings, and in which each question is answered bizarrely and generally wrongly, haven’t tried with these questions. If you want to try it out go to Answers.com and type in a question and see what you get. (There are lots of other such sites, but I will let you find them).

On the other hand, if you want some storage for all the paper your company generates, with its contracts and the like, we are probably your solution. There are more details on our website or give us a call on 0800 783 9516.

The three things you really ought to check

If a light bulb goes in your office, it tends to get replaced fairly quickly, for obvious reasons.

If the heating breaks down in winter there’s a similar urgency about getting it fixed.  Everyone knows the boiler’s on the blink, and there’s no hiding from the cold.

But there is one aspect of most businesses that isn’t immediately apparent, generally isn’t checked, and yet, when it goes wrong, can cause a disaster.

Papers and other products put in storage tend to be forgotten, because that’s what putting something in storage is all about.  After all, what can go wrong with storage?

Well, three things actually.

First, even in what appears to be a warm dry atmosphere, dampness can creep in.  If it’s caught in the first few weeks there’s no problem, but a year down the line and that can be highly troublesome.

Second, putting items into storage is easy – but there can be a problem with retrieving items filed away years before.  Until you try to find the invoice, contract, deeds or other document from six years ago, and then realise that 50 other boxes have to be moved first, you don’t know there’s an issue.

Finally, there is the issue of items that go missing.  Every organisation has the potential to lose documents.  Even Companies House can and does lose documents.  But that doesn’t make life easier (and nor is it an excuse when faced with a very annoyed client).

Admiral Storage gives you storage that is set at a constant humidity and temperature, in which retrieval of all documents is easily organised, and which is utterly secure, so that no one other than you or your representative can access your documents.

There’s more information on www.archive-document-storage.co.uk or call me on 01922 632227.

We also run a regular news and background blog (www.blog.archive-document-storage.co.uk) about paper and paper storage, I hope you find it interesting.

Why school exams must be taken with pen and paper

It is rather strange to note that although almost everyone working in Great Britain in an office, shop, warehouse, factory or government building undertakes most of their writing and calculating on a computer, children and students at school are still forced to undertake much of their work, and almost all of their examinations, on paper.

If you ever ask teachers or examination bodies as to why this is so, there is a suggestion that computers will lead to students cheating – for example by accessing the spell checker when writing essays.

And yet within such a view there is very little thought as to why using a spell checker is cheating.  After all, a spell checker is exactly what I am using as I write this, and it is what I use every day in my working life.  So is my working life cheating?  It’s a bit of an odd thought.

The production of homework, classwork and examinations represent a significant use of paper within the UK – there are 29,000 schools and around 7.5 million pupils and students in school at any one time.

On the assumption that the average student will use five pages of paper per school day, this represents around 7 billion sheets of paper a year being used in school.

Fortunately not all of that has to be stored – although some of the exam papers do have to be kept for long periods in order to provide comparisons.  (Incidentally the exam paper themselves work out at around 20 million sheets a year).

But some paper does have to be stored for long periods of time – and you need it to be there when you want it.  You also need to know the temperature is ok, the humidity is right, and that no one else could possibly come across your material and remove it by mistake.

There’s more details about our storage system, where we are, and what we do on our website.

Thanking the gods for a lack of digital technology

I often wonder how long digital copies of legal copies will last, and how many might get lost in system corruptions.

Fortunately the Ancient Egyptians didn’t use digital technology very much and so we still have quite a few of their legal judgements, wills and the like to look at.

And interesting reading they make, although there is sometimes the problem of context.

Consider this simple document in which a wife wins a dispute over her inheritance:

In Year 1, Month 2 of the Summer Season, last day. On this day, the Citizeness Isis complained against the Workman Khaemipet, the Workman Khaemwast, and the Workman Amon-nakht, saying, “Let be given to me the property of Panakht my husband.” Inquiry was made with regard to the opinion of members of the court and they said: “The woman is right.” So she was given the property of her husband; in other words, she was taken for him.

Or another in which a woman asks an oracle to settle a dispute over land:

They disputed again today over payment for the parts of the fields belonging to the Citizeness Ipi which Paneferher, son of Horsiese, her male kinsman, had sold to Ikeni. And they came before the god Hemen of Hefat and Hemen said with regard to the pair of documents: “Ikeni is right. He gave the money to Paneferher at the time. It is finished.” Thus spoke Hemen in the presence of all the witnesses.

These documents (taken from http://www.stoa.org/diotima/anthology/wardtexts.shtml) would probably not be with us without the storage systems of ancient Egypt.  In 2000 or more years, will our documents still be readable?

Maybe – and of course I am not going to say that the Admiral Storage System will be here in 4010 AD – but it will be going for quite a few years, with its system of storage through which your company (but no one else) can access and read the documents when wanted.

There’s more details on our website or give us a call on 0800 783 9516.

What is the biggest storage of books and other printed documents in the world?

The two biggest collections of books and other printed materials in the world are the Library of Congress (which is in effect the national library of the USA) and the British Library.

The Library of Congress has reported that its collection of 150 million books, papers and documents fills about 745 miles of shelving while the British Library near Euston says it has a mere 388 miles of shelves with only 25 million books.

But when we look not just at “books” but at all the stored “items” it is reported that there are 160 million items in all known languages and formats in the British library. This includes not only books but also  journals, newspapers, magazines, recordings, patents, maps, prints and drawings. Indeed the British Library holds and stores manuscripts and historical documents dating back to 300BC.

Publishers have a legal obligation to provide The British Library with a copy of each new book that is produced, and so the Library receives copies of all books produced in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, including all books published outside the British Isles but distributed in the UK.

As if that were not enough, to keep the collection up, the Library purchases many items which are only published outside Britain and Ireland.  As a result it adds about three million items every year.

Perhaps one of the most amazing things about the Library is that it is in principle open to everyone who has a genuine need to use its collections.

Fortunately most of us don’t have storage needs that are quite as large as the British Library, but we do, like the BL, need to know that our printed material is safe and secure, and that we can access it quickly when needed.

Which is what Admiral provides.

You can find out more at our website.

If it is on a computer, the chances are it will go missing

The fact that there are around 8 million hits on Google for sites that deal with issues of data loss ought to tell us something – something such as the fact that digital technology has a problem: data gets lost.

I don’t want to dwell on the issue too much for fear that it might seem as if I am trying to issue notices of doom and gloom, but in summary data seems to get lost in no less than six ways:

  • Everyone forgets where on the computer the information was filed.  (We often don’t admit this, but it is amazing how often this happens.)
  • Someone leaves a memory stick on a train or sends data on a CD which the courier loses.
  • A hard drive corrupts, and there is no adequate back up (or the back up uses old technology and so can’t be accessed any more) so the data is lost.
  • An aggrieved individual (such as an employee or ex-employee) walks out of the office with data on a memory stick and uses it maliciously.
  • Someone breaks in electronically and removes the data.
  • A virus or a Trojan attacks your system and corrupts everything.

In short, what we can say for sure is that:

  1. Digital data goes missing
  2. Most companies feel that it can’t happen to them because they are either too careful or they have good protection systems in place.

Of course I can’t argue with you about your own protection systems, but the fact is that data regularly goes missing from major companies, government ministries, and from individual computers (as when people put in their own credit card details).  And that’s just about everywhere.

So what’s to be done?  Should we all go back to paper?

Of course that’s impossible. Increasingly our society is based on digital technology – but it is clear that if you really want things to stay where they should be (contracts, legal agreements, historic data for HMRC etc) then having a paper based system is helpful.

All you need then is somewhere to store it.  Somewhere that only you and your colleagues can access.

And that’s what we provide.  The antidote to lost digital data.  The classic storage facility.

If you would like to know more go to our website or give us a call on 0800 783 9516.

Does the use of paper matter in environmental terms?

Put another way, should we be trying harder to move towards the paperless office?

In fact the paper making industry has moved very quickly in recent years to make itself sustainable, and well under 10% of the paper we use now is harvested from old growth forests, which cannot be replaced easily.

According to the Worldwatch Institute, recycling now recovers over 43% of all paper used and virtually all paper makers substitute ever increasing amounts of recycled paper for virgin wood in the pulp-making stage.  So even though the growth in the use of recycled paper has not been as big as some would want, virtually all of the paper we get contains growing amounts of recycled content.

What’s more, the stalks of crops such as wheat, oat, barley are now being combined with recycled paper and other fillers and can result in paper of the highest quality.

We could, of course, go much further and use hemp as a substitute for wood.  This idea has been around for 2000 years, but the problem is that despite the rich history of using hemp (the American Declaration of Independence was written on hemp), hemp is frowned upon as a substance as it is a variety of  cannabis and thus considered to be a Bad Thing.  (This is maybe why people in America are more likely to remember that the first paper merchant in the USA was Benjamin Franklin, who launched a whole chain of paper mills in Virginia, rather than the material the Declaration was written on.)

Anyway, back to the issue of recycling. The big benefit of using recycled or part recycled paper is that it uses less water and less energy – often around 50% of the energy level of working with non-recycled paper. This is because there is no “pulping” in the use of recycled paper.

What’s more, the production of recycled paper generates less air pollution, because most recycled paper is not bleached, which is a major pollutant in the process.

So paper isn’t such a bad thing overall – and that’s why we keep using it, despite the advent of digital technology.

All that is left is the issue of storage, which is where we come in.

There’s information about our storage on our website – www.archive-document-storage.co.uk

The paperless office: what went wrong?

In 1975 Business Week magazine ran an article which (for the first time) used the phrase “the paperless office”.

35 years on, the phrase is still well known, but no one seriously expects the concept to happen.  At least not in our lifetime.  So what went wrong?

The problem with the notion of the “paperless office” was simply that it was a notion.  It was supposed to be a route to cost-savings and efficiency, but in the end turned out to be anything but that.  Digital data, we now know, creates as many problems as it solves.

True, these days we can look things up in a trice, and make notes on our PC or Apple, and yet most of us still jot things down with pen and note pad.  And most institutions (from legal practices to garages) feel that relying entirely on a computer system to hold valuable data (from legal contracts to sales invoices) is not actually the most reliable way to go.

Worse, anyone and his son can walk out of an office with 100,000 pages of information on a memory stick stuffed into a pocket.  Try walking out with 100,000 pages of printed information and someone is likely to look up from a desk and utter the immortal words, “I’m not sure you should be taking that out of the office.”

So, there’s security, and there’s reliability.  (Put your 100,000 pages in a safe dry store and it is likely to stay there ready for you to refer to it when needed five years later.  Put it on a PC and that might not be the case.)

And apart from that, there’s the issue of how we interact with the information we have written down.  Information on paper is much easier to handle than a computer monitor.  Paper is there.  You can read it, notate it, take it on the train to use, make notes, drop it into your pocket, take it out again, draw charts and mind maps, walk into a colleague’s office and show him/her…

Paper is easy, and it doesn’t give you the eyestrain that a monitor can.

Which is why we still use paper, why we hold information on paper, and when we come to store information that could be needed in five years time, we put it on paper and put the paper (not a computer system) in storage.

(Although I must say the notion of putting a computer system in storage and then coming back and trying to remember how the thing works ten years on would be rather amusing.)

Of late Amazon have been trying to have it both ways – selling us real live books and their Kindle reader.  Maybe it will work, and will catch on, but somehow despite all the extra weight, I rather like taking my six novels with me for the annual two weeks in the sun.  And I quite like having the novel next to the bed, even if most nights I fall asleep before getting half way down the page.

But that’s a side issue.  The key question is, is it safe to store vital documents for years on a computer system alone?  And the answer is no – which is why we have storage facilities for paper.  And why we exist.

There’s more on our storage services at www.archive-document-storage.co.uk