NVQ: Explain the Purpose and Required Procedures for Storing and Retrieving Information
This article is for candidates working towards their NVQ Level 2 or 3 in Business and Administration. This is a Level 2 unit with a total of 3 credits. This unit deals with the storage and retrieval of information for a business or an organisation following the security and confidentiality requirements. I cover the first part of the learning outcome, which will help one understand the processes and procedures for storing and retrieving information.
We will briefly discuss:
- The purpose of storing and retrieving required information.
- Different types of information systems and their features.
- The purpose of legal and organisational requirements for security and confidentiality of information.
- The purpose of confirming information that is to be stored and retrieved.
- Ways to check information for accuracy and why.
- How to provide information in an agreed format and timescale.
- The types of information that may be deleted.
- Problems that may occur with information systems and how to deal with them.
Information can be defined as facts that were provided by someone or learned about someone or something or facts that were gathered through research or other means. It can also be defined as a message that is conveyed through some means. Information can be recorded and transmitted and they are very important because it helps with outcomes and decisions. They need to be accurate and prepared in a timely manner. They have to be specific and stick to the necessity or purpose (be relevant), have meaning and make sense which will help gain understanding.
Information can be either physical or electronic and needs to be managed efficiently. Information management is the organisations responsibility where it is gathered, managed, stored, shared, preserved, retrieved and delivered.
1.1 Explain the Purpose of Storing and Retrieving Required Information
Storing information is the process where information is deposited or stored in a storehouse (cabinets, HDD, memory stick, etc) and retrieving information is the process of obtaining the stored information resources relevant to the needs.
The main purpose of storing any information is for easy retrieval in the future when it is required. It is also part of a company’s business practice. Storing documents have to be done in proper procedure so that it is easier to find. Depending on the type of information, information can be stored in either fireproof cabinets for hard copies or hard disks or other electronic storage devices for soft copies.
Depending on the nature of the company or organisation or business, different types of information will have to be stored. It can be secrets related to the company, highly confidential files related to the company or employees or customers / clients. So files have to be stored following all the confidentiality procedures and protected according to data protection act as these are information necessary for providing quality service and also for the smooth running of the company.
The purpose of information retrieval is to provide quality service for the right person at the right time, with all the required information in hand. Only if data is stored in a procedural manner it can be easily retrieved. Information might be retrieved for marketing purposes, for communications, for monitoring purposes, for surveys and other research that an organisation or business might conduct. Information will also be retrieved in situations where information might have to be shared with partner companies and with the police or Inland Revenue.
Storage and retrieval of data plays a major role in improving the performance of a company and this can happen either offline or online and in various formats.
1.2 Describe Different Information Systems and Their Main Features
Information systems are the collection of hardware and software network, data and procedures that people and organisations use for the information storage and retrieval procedure. It looks after collection of data, creating data, processing data, distributing data and retrieving data. It helps improve efficiency and effectiveness of an organisation.
The earlier information system had only three types.
- Transaction Processing System – This system is responsible for processing day to day business transactions. The types of transactions vary from organisation to organisation. It helps with maintaining, adding, changing and removing data. Some examples are placing order, billing, cheque deposits, payroll systems, reservation systems, stock control etc. This system is used by frontline staff.
- Management Information System – This system helps with carrying out the tasks required for problem solving and decision making. These are management level systems and help with the smooth running of the organisation. It helps with generating reports necessary for running and monitoring performance levels and efficiency levels, data for accounting and other transactions. Some examples are sales management systems, budgeting, personnel, inventory control etc. This information needs to be very accurate and relevant.
- Decision Support Systems – This system helps with making long term decisions and is used to assist managers. This system uses internal and external resources and is used to analyse existing information and project the effects. They help with summary reports, forecasts, graphs etc. Some examples are logistics systems, spread sheet models etc.
Recently a few other information systems have been added and they are
- Executive Information System – This system helps with information flow, reporting and data analysis for the organisation. It is used by executives and senior managers to predict the future of the company and this system presents data from both external and internal resources. It helps with summary reports and forecasts.
- Data warehouse – This system helps with storage of information electronically and also helps with analysis, retrieval, sharing and managing data.
- Office Automation – This system is a computer based information system and helps to create, modify and put together information in digital format. These were developed to increase the efficiency of office workers, administrative assistants, managers, professionals, secretaries and anyone who uses a computer to store and retrieve information and data.
1.3 Explain the Purpose of Legal and Organizational Requirements for the Security and Confidentiality of Information
Any information stored in an organisation has to follow the security and confidentiality procedures. Information security and confidentiality is the process where data is kept away from unauthorised access, disclosure, destruction, use or modification. It applies to both physical and electronic data. All organisations store a large amount of confidential information about their employees, customers, company’s status, products, surveys, finances, etc. So while handling this information, care has to be taken to follow the security and confidentiality procedures, because if information goes into wrong hands it could lead to serious negative consequences. It will also affect the ethics and running of the organisation and will lead to legal actions being taken.
Also while passing information to other organisations or individuals, the confidentiality and data protection procedures have to be followed. Confidential information like date of birth, credit and debit card details, religion, ethnicity, financial status etc., can be passed to only people who have authority or for whom the owner has given consent to and it also has to follow the confidentiality laws and regulations.
1.4 Explain the purpose of confirming information to be stored and retrieved
Organisations, businesses and companies store a large amount of information, but storing the wrong information is of no use. So before storing information, one has to be careful at the stage where data is collected or gathered. Care has to be taken to make sure that the data is correct and up to date. It also applies to retrieval of data. As previously discussed, data retrieval is for a purpose and there is no use retrieving data that is out of date. So the systems have to be kept updated all the times by checking for out-dated records periodically in a given span of time.
Thus the purpose of confirming information that are to be stored or retrieved are, to avoid inaccurate information, to avoid wrong information, to prevent mistakes, and also to avoid unnecessary costs and issues that might arise as a result of wrong information. Wrong information can lead to serious outcomes. For example, an out-dated address of a customer, can lead to any communications sent to the customer ending up in the hands of a wrong or dangerous person, which can have disastrous effects on the company and the customer
1.5 Describe Ways of Checking Information for Accuracy
Information always needs to be checked for accuracy, because inaccurate information can lead to serious outcomes. Information can be relative to anything with regards to an organisation. When it comes to customers, it can be their address, telephone number or outstanding payments, when it comes to employees, it can be their appraisals, salaries, again their address and telephone numbers, and for the business, it can be the business’s finances, profits, employee and customer details, and various other information.
Alerts can be set on customer and employee information to make sure they are contacted to keep the system updated. Using good software for database purposes will help with maintaining information accurately. External and internal audits are another way of keeping information up to date.
1.6 Explain the Purpose of Checking Information for Accuracy
All businesses and organisations have to check to see that the information they have stored is accurate. For example, the money coming in and going out have to be correctly recorded otherwise it will look as if the company has not made much profit and it can affect the share prices of the company, affect the employees as the company might not be able to pay the employees and will have to cut down on staff, lenders will not agree to lend money, etc.
Incorrect information can have serious negative effects and can affect a company’s financial status and values. Accuracy of information will help executives plan ahead for the future and lay goals. They will also be able to plan for the shortcomings in advance.
1.7 Explain the Purpose of Providing Information to Agreed Format and Timescales
Information when requested have to be in the agreed format and have to be presented or provided at the agreed timescales. Every organisation will have a standard business format for all documents that they deal with. Also when dealing with other companies, there will be agreed formats on which information will need to be presented. If information is not provided in the agreed format, it will require reformatting, which will utilise extra time and also will bring in a bad reputation to the organisation.
Very similar to this, information if not provided in correct format, can take time for reformatting thereby preventing the business from keeping up with the timescales. If information is not provided in the agreed timescales and arrives after the deadline, there will not be any use of the information after that because the time has already passed, or there will not be time to interpret information if it was required to do so. It will not help with the smooth running of the organisation. So as part of the organisations policies and procedures, information have to be provided on time in the agreed format.
1.8 Describe the Types of Information That May Be Deleted
A company can keep on gathering / collecting information as the business runs. For example, if a company has records of clients or customers, new customers will be coming in all the time and the database will have more and more information as the company grows and in the end will have old, unused data, irrelevant data, out-dated data etc., which will only take up unwanted storage space. Every company will have a policy that tells for how long data need to be retained on their database, or for how long physical files need to be stored in the office cabinets. After this time, the unwanted information can be deleted, and unwanted physical files can be destroyed following security and confidentiality procedures. Deletion (electronic files) and shredding (physical files) are the processes used to delete information. There should be periodic review of recorded information and automated systems should be in place to flag records for review and then deleted where appropriate.
When data is shared between partner companies or organisations, agreements have to be made as to how long the data will be retained on their database and then deleted after that period of time. All out-dated and inaccurate information have to be securely deleted in order to avoid errors and detrimental effects.
Describe Problems That May Occur With Information Systems and How to Deal With Them, When Necessary
Information systems are the important assets to an organisation. There are many issues that can create problems with information systems. Electronic information can be attacked by viruses or by hackers. Physical file information can be damaged due to fire or flood. Confidentiality can be breached by people who do not have authority to access information. Lack of communication also can lead to misuse or wrong storage of information.
A computer virus can infect programs and all information in the computer or the network. To prevent virus attacks and from hackers, proper security (antivirus) software and firewalls need to be used and the systems need to be monitored at all times. Information sharing should be avoided as much as possible over the internet, and if needed, secure emails and communication procedures need to be followed. Emails from unknown, suspicious or not trustworthy sources should be deleted. Email attachments that are suspicious should never be opened. Care has to be taken while downloading files from the internet, download only from trustworthy sources. Keep antivirus software updated, so that it recognises and deals with new viruses.
Information should also be password protected so that wrong / non-authoritative people do not have access to this information. In cases where data need to be copied on to external portable devices, it is best to encrypt the data. Care should be taken not to share information with people who do not have authority to access information. It is always best to have a backup of all data, so in case of any problems with systems the company will have a backup to work with and not lose all valuable information. In case of physical information, it is best to store them in fireproof cabinets and in safe places which are less prone to natural disasters.
Information have to be protected from corruption and access to it has to be controlled. Care has to be taken to protect information against unauthorised retrieval by putting in authorised retrieval procedures.
This article was written with a general idea with regards to storage and retrieval of information. When you write down your assignment, please make sure and take enough care to prepare the answers relevant to the business or organisation that you work for. This article has been submitted here to give you an overview of what will be expected of you on your paperwork.
Good luck, and hope this is helpful!