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Audit-proof Archiving: An overview

What is Audit-proof Archiving?

An archive system is audit-proof, when it can sufficiently ensure that a document cannot be altered or lost from the point of its arrival in the archive, its transport and up until its final storage and beyond. Basically, all Document Management Systems are audit-proof as individual software. Whether an entire system (consisting of client, server, operating system, DMS and backup) is audit-proof and the requirements for an audit-proof archiving are met, also depend on the configuration and the administration during operation.

To achieve conformity to the GDPdU (Principles on Data Access and Verifiability of Digital Documents) and the GoBS (Principles of DP-based Orderly Accounting / Bookkeeping Systems), which is important for the acceptance of the digital archive by the tax authorities, a Procedural Documentation has to be made, that can be presented on demand. Apart from the audit-safety, aspects such as the sufficiency of the digital archive regarding the audit period become important. With correct handling, the audit-safety is given by our open source DMS bitfarm-Archiv, which can be demonstrated with a technical procedural documentation at all times.

The GOBD lays out the guidelines for audit-proof archiving (Principles for the Proper Keeping and Retention of Books, Records and Documents). Despite the fact that the phrase "audit-proof" is not explicitly used in the GOBD, the term "audit security" encompasses all associated specifications and requirements. The GOBD primarily refers to the electronic storage of tax-related documents, often known as an electronic archive or digital document storage in a document management system (DMS).

The GOBD (Guidelines for the proper management and preservation of electronic books, records, and documents, as well as data access) specifies ten aspects or conditions that must be properly followed to provide audit-proof electronic archiving:

  • Regularity
  • Completeness
  • Protection against modification and falsification
  • Protection against loss
  • Use only by authorized persons
  • Compliance with retention periods
  • Documentation of the process
  • Traceability
  • Auditability

How does a DMS help?

Today's document management systems actively assist businesses in implementing audit-proof archiving standards. Several technical functions ensure that the documents and the digital archive as a whole are compliant with the GOBD and hence audit security. We demonstrate in detail how a document management system, such as our online archive bitfarm-Archiv, ensures audit compliance:

Versioning allows that changes to documents may be tracked in a DMS like bitfarm-Archiv. This means that you can examine and restore the original version of a document at any moment. Technically, any electronic repository or document type can have its own retention term. During this time, the DMS ensures that no digital documents are accidentally deleted. However, it also notifies you when the time is up for renewal and ensures that papers that are no longer required to be kept can be erased entirely using the appropriate tools. Using a DMS greatly reduces the effort required to comply with the retention term as well as to delete the documents.

Each employee who will work with the electronic archive in a document management system like bitfarm-Archiv must be set up in the system. This configuration comprises assigning necessary access rights. It is possible to control whether digital documents can be displayed, changed, printed, or saved down to the document level. The automatic transfer of documents that are created directly to the archive is also part of this authorisation approach. Data from FIBU, Office, or any other software can be imported automatically in the background, ensuring that the GOBD's demand for archiving as soon as feasible is met.

For analog documents that are scanned and archived, matching rules must be stored to ensure that the scans are processed and archived automatically.

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