Firms Focus Is SafeKeeping Instant Retrieval

May 20, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — The human carnage of Sept.11 quite naturally overshadowed another less notorious but nonetheless far-reaching loss: untold millions of corporate records.

The materials that went up in flames and scattered to the winds were everything from contracts to payroll records and simple receipts for stock purchases.

Yet a great many of the Global Trade Center’s tenants probably stored vital documents off-site.

Certainly such is the case among many West Michigan firms, and one of the places a number of local companies keep such materials is safe underground in the custody of Information Managers & Associates (IM&A).

IM&A has been in the document storage, imaging and retrieval business since 1988, in the past numbering Toyota Japan, Boeing and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration among its clients.

Michael Leidlein, the firm’s president, says those entities no longer retain IM&A’s services.

Nonetheless, he says IM&A has a large book of business that encompasses companies ranging from a community college in Michigan, a Fortune 1000 retailer, a manufacturer that needs to share information globally, and a three-person company which assists with 6-month ISO compliance audits, a process that requires comparisons of archival and current materials.

Because of contractual confidentiality, he declines to identify any of IM&A’s clients.

He did tell the Business Journal, however, that he and his staff of 15 are at the end of making a technical leap, which just now is sending them into a major marketing push.

“We have retooled and reengineered every process regarding equipment capture, storage and access,” Leidlein said.

The result, he says, is that IM&A has rolled out a new service that will enable clients to obtain instant, though secure, Internet access to whatever segments of its underground archive it chooses to designate.  At the same time, he stressed, the documents will remain secure.

“In the past,” he said, “documents were physically stored in file cabinets or desk drawers to save space. However these records weren’t easily accessible on a day-to-day basis.

“Electronically storing important records creates a type of virtual file cabinet. The information is highly secure and remains private, yet it can be easily retrieved anywhere in the world with an Internet connection and a password.”

This doesn’t mean all the documents at IM&A’s facility in an area gypsum mine are available online.

Some clients, Leidlein explains, simply need a safe place to archive documents that they may never use again but must keep as a requirement by law or corporate policy or both.

Other clients, he explained, may need regular if infrequent access to certain records. And, since its inception in 1989, IM&A has indexed and made the material readily available to the client through microfilm, microfiche or computer tape.

Finally, he said, some clients require instantaneous and high-security access to certain archives and that’s what IM&A now provides.

Though Leidlein speaks of the service as a virtual file cabinet, he actually says that by using the Internet, one gets at the material far more rapidly than having to hunt through the tabs of a tightly packed file drawer. 

In many cases, he added, clients need a combination of all three forms of storage.

When documents which clients earmark for instant retrieval arrive at IM&A’s underground office, the firm indexes and scans them — the firm has a 120-page per minute scanner — into the appropriate server supporting the Web site to which the client company’s staff has the controlled access prescribed by that company’s officers.

The 52-year-old Leidlein says he’s particularly proud that IM&A has made itself the state’s exclusive provider of a content management program: the Documentum 4i platform, which he says is an industry-leading software package.

He said Documentum enables itself to be customized, so that IM&A can arrange for it to integrate with any client’s software. Thus, client staffers can work simultaneously with their firm’s archival material on the Web and their own materials in house.

Moreover, Documentum permits an item to be either shared or routed among whatever hierarchy the client requires.

Leidlein said Documentum also has a particularly valuable search function.

“When we index documents, say we make a mistake and get one document in the wrong location. All the client needs is one key word, and the program will enable them to find the document, extract it and put it in the right location.”

He said that in addition to recently moving all its storage underground to a site secure from flood, fire and attack, IM&A has improved its storage management by acquiring new Dell Raid technology.

One of the nice things about it all, Leidlein claims, is that “IM&A provides this solution without large investments in hardware and software. The cost is typically less than continuing to store information in cabinets and file drawers.”

He said IM&A is happy to consult with firms that wish to do their own scanning.

Leidlein has been with the firm a year, though previously he was a consultant for it, having spent the earlier segment of his career in the office equipment industry.

The firm was founded by Jeff Honeyager as Corporate Information Systems. It became IM&A last year when Honeyager  — whom readers will recall as the creator of iServ — sold his interests in the firm. BJ

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