ARA finalises its new internal records and information management system

Green ARA Square2ARA finalises its new internal records and information management system

Designed to help ARA officers, Board members and regional and specialist sections store, manage and share ARA documents more efficiently

Background on the Records Management Project

The late, great Carl Newton initiated the ARA Records management project. He drew on both his specialist expertise and his long-standing knowledge and experience of membership of the ARA. He reviewed the ARA’s records management policy and procedures in 2013, producing a report later that year that highlighted gaps and inconsistencies in how we handled our own records as well as actionable recommendations for changes based on best-practice use of the latest technologies.

The Board approved his recommendations on new records management principles, a file plan and retention schedule in 2013. The Board also approved Carl’s core recommendation, that the ARA install a private cloud-based system (ARACloudNAS) to help capture the records produced by staff, Board members and the ARA’s geographically-dispersed specialist and regional sections, enabling their officers to capture and store ARA records in one central location for the duration of their recommended retention period.

The ARA began implementing the new system in early 2014. We purchased the ARACloudNAS equipment and installed it at the Taunton office for testing and piloting. There followed training of nominated personnel. The ARACloudNAS is now fully operational, with its own virus-checking programme and offsite backup routine.

What the ARACloudNAS is and does

The ARACloudNAS system is a network-associated storage (NAS) device to help ARA officers do their jobs. Many of you will know it as ‘NASBox’ but we shouldn’t really call it that because it is technically not a box. It is also not a full Electronic Document and Records Management (EDRM) system but a simple-to-use, online electronic document storage device. We clearly do need a more accessible name for the new system, so will hold a naming competition at some point later in the year.

Security is, of course, a top priority. ARA officers should be reassured that the ARACloudNAS is a ‘private’ cloud-based system – by virtue of being sited at the Taunton office - and therefore does not incur the usual negatives of more open online cloud-based systems. The ARACloudNAS has now been in its operational testing phase for some time and has around 90 or so ARA users.

Problems, and addressing them

It became clear last year that a number of people were experiencing problems accessing the system directly from their work-based desktop computers, mainly due to office firewall issues. Our interim recommendation was that anyone experiencing such problems should try to download any ARA documents they receive on a work desktop on to an encrypted memory stick and then transport documents to their home PC to upload them.

Of course, this is nota practicable solution for those working in central and local government, or other entities with restrictive procedures for work desktops, though many will have stand-alone PCs at work that can accept external flash-drives. We will continue to look for a solution for those that do not have this option (see para 4 below for how to get advice and help with any problems).

Nevertheless, we do now want to roll the system out fully to officers so that ARA records are not left languishing on personal or work desktops.

Getting started and dealing with back-documents

Some sections and officers are already using ARACloudNAS regularly. If you – or your section - are not yet active, the section secretary should request a login by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. at the Taunton office and asking the Administrator (in reality our ever-helpful experts Peter and Teresa) to send you one. Peter and Teresa are also on hand to help/advise if you have problems.

All sections and officers should then start uploading their records, starting with the most recent and then put in place a plan to upload any backlog. We also suggest using the next  three months, until the end of May 2016, to stagger the upload all relevant 2015 documents, and that you plan to use the following  six months (up to the end of November) to select an upload all key documents from earlier years.

The benefits

Our goal is to ensure that the ARA has the ability to capture and retrieve all key records in a consistent and timely manner and for them to be easily accessible to authorised users. We hope that this will improve communication across the association as well as easing the administrative burden of our sections and officers, who give their precious time generously for everyone’s benefit.

Further training

By early March, we aim to develop and send out written guidelines on how to use the ARACloudNAS and provide the file plan and retention schedule. In the following weeks, we will also develop a training platform, in the form of a webcast.

We would welcome volunteers for a small working group to give feedback on the file plan. If you are interested, again please email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .