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Archive and store documents
Archive and store documents

Video: Archive and store documents

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Video: The Best Way to Archive Valuable Files 2023, January

Archiving documents and keeping them safe can quickly become a challenge. Because over time, tons of papers, invoices and contracts accumulate, which have to be sorted and labeled. So that you don't lose track, we explain what you should know about the topic.

You need patience and perseverance to store documents properly - but the work is worth it, because everyone knows: "Order is half life". If you no longer want to search for important documents in vain in the paper stack on your desk, you can make your life easier with just a few steps.

But what exactly is a document? Documents generally contain relevant or important information. These do not always have to be in paper form, they can also contain information of any kind digitally. However, they always serve to provide legal security, so that this letter can be used to prove exactly what was planned or carried out - for example, they document a payment or other legally significant transactions.

Retention periods for documents

In contrast to companies, traders or the self-employed, private individuals are generally not subject to any statutory retention requirements. The only exception are craftsmen's invoices, which must prove that no undeclared work has been carried out (Section 14b (1) UStG). Nevertheless, it is also advisable to archive important documents for a certain time. The following retention periods should at least be observed:

at least two years

There is no regulated retention period for sales contracts, receipts, invoices and guarantee documents. When purchasing new goods, however, you conclude a sales contract in accordance with the German Civil Code (BGB), which is valid for two years. You should also keep artisan bills, doctors 'bills, lawyers and notaries' bills for just as long.

at least five years

Complaints and claims for defects in the home.

at least six years

High earners with an annual salary of more than EUR 500, 000 a year must keep their bank statements for at least six years.

around 30 years

Court judgments, orders for payment and trial files


Some documents should be kept for a lifetime. These include medical reports, training certificates, diplomas, birth certificates, baptism certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates for family members and documents for calculating pensions. The latter also includes employment contracts, pay slips and social security documents.

private tax records

Private tax documents generally do not have to be kept. However, if a tax notice is marked "provisional" or "subject to review", the documents should be kept until they have been fully clarified.

Credit contracts and insurance policies

Contracts for banking products should be available for the entire term and up to approximately three years after the end of this term. The same applies to insurance documents.

Design filing system for documents

A well-structured filing system is the best way to keep documents safe and long. Which form of storage you choose mainly depends on your preferences. For small offices and few documents, a small cupboard is enough, which you can simply slide under the desk. If you don't want to have space problems later, you should invest directly in a spacious closet that offers enough storage space for folders and folders. For documents that you do not need all the time, you can buy several A4 folders, which you can label accordingly and add separators. Even with the folder color, you can already make different contents clear. For example, all folders for building a house can be green and folders for finance can be black. If you would prefer uniform folders, you should attach great importance to precise labeling so that you have the required papers quickly at hand.

For important documents that are used in the office again and again, labeled hanging files are suitable, which are kept in a corresponding hanging file cabinet. The size, color and design of the cabinet can be selected individually.

The cassette register, consisting of plastic cassettes in A4 landscape format, is also suitable for direct and quick access to individual files.

If you have papers in the office or at home that you need again and again or that still have to be processed, you can simply put them in a letter tray. However, avoid collecting too many documents there, otherwise clutter will quickly arise.


Hanging files have the advantage that documents do not have to be punched. The documents are simply placed loosely in the folder and can also be quickly removed.

Photo: Jörg Lantelme / Fotolia

Fireproof document cassette

Fireproof document cartridges are ideal for protecting important documents such as your passport or birth certificate in the event of fire or flood. They withstand high temperatures of up to 60 minutes and are extremely stable and robust, so that thieves have little chance. The dimensions of most cassettes correspond to the A4 format and can therefore also store A4 folders or entire registers. They also have a handle and can therefore be easily transported.

Digital storage of documents

The amount of documents you collect over the course of a lifetime is often quite substantial. However, there is often a lack of space to store all documents. One solution here is the digital storage of documents. There are various archiving software for documents. This requires precise research into which software is suitable for you. If you mainly want to save emails, this can be a problem for some software. A good archiving program can not only handle scanned paper documents or PDFs, but should also automatically assign emails and their attachments to the correct electronic files.

If you prefer to digitize your documents yourself without software, then you need a good scanner and sufficient storage space in the form of an external hard drive. There are many reasons to scan your documents: If you save documents electronically and in copies, you can protect them against loss or destruction. You can also save office space and potentially money. And last but not least, improve your office organization: electronic archiving creates order and an overview.

It is advisable to create a second external hard drive for security so that no data can be lost. Hard drives with mirror function are a fairly secure solution for storing important data. The principle: There are two hard drives in one housing. The two hard drives communicate with each other and mirror their content - twice is better. If one of the plates is defective, there is still the second one.

After 5 to 10 years, however, it is advisable to buy a new hard drive, because digital storage media also have a limited shelf life. If a hard drive of a so-called raid system shows quirks, you should buy two new ones. The interfaces and connections between storage medium and computer also change from time to time - another reason to transfer the data to new external drives.

Once you have digitized your documents, it is of course also important to create order on the hard disk. You can simply create a suitable folder structure with the appropriate name. You also have the option of tagging the individual files. When it comes to the file type, you should rely on proven formats such as JPEG and PDF, which also promise a certain future security. You better avoid exotic file formats.

You should at least encrypt the folders that contain sensitive documents. The standard encryption function of the operating system is usually sufficient for this. Be sure to write down the password and store it in a place that you can still remember in 10 years - should you forget it, there is hardly any way to access the encrypted data. Encryption is essential if your computer has Internet access, because there are now a lot of Trojans in circulation, especially for Windows systems, that can spy on the data of other computers.

Dokumente digitalisieren
Dokumente digitalisieren

Digitizing documents takes time, but saves a lot of space.

Photo: YakobchukOlena / Fotolia

Store documents online in the cloud

Online storage can also be used for data archiving. It's easy and inexpensive, if not free. There are many providers: Dropbox, Amazon or Google Drive are major services. But if you rely on convenient cloud services, you also have to have a lot of trust: Ultimately, you give your data into the hands of other companies. They are only as secure as the respective provider does. You may also have running costs and no control over the future of the service provider. Cloud storage is therefore not the first choice for sensitive data.

Store documents externally

The Berlin company Deba Bauarchiv GmbH offers a service especially for property owners. It specializes in storing and managing the documents of predominantly private property owners. "The customers bring us their folders, we index them and store them with us under special security measures, " explains Managing Director Ben Stoffregen. If the customer needs a document or copy, he requests it from Deba, which sends it by post or courier. Because documents are always lost when moving house. "It had cost a lot of money for a customer today: To top up his house one floor, he had to spend tens of thousands of euros to create new statics and other analyzes."

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