Safe as houses?
Many organisations store their computer backups and other vital records onsite in a fire safe.
While fire safes offer some protection and can serve a useful purpose, they do have their limitations and these need to be understood when weighing up your options. Points to consider include :
- Different types of safes offer different levels of protection, in terms of the duration and the temperatures they will withstand. A severe or prolonged fire may well exceed these tolerances.
- Computer media and paper are not the same and need different levels of protection. A fire safe designed to protect paper will almost certainly not offer adequate protection for computer media.
- Not all fire safes are waterproof, so when the fire brigade come and douse the burning building with thousands of gallons of water the contents of the safe can be ruined anyway.
- The fire safe is often stored in the basement, which can make it difficult to get to after a major incident such as a fire (see also the above note about water, which tends to flow downwards!).
- In a denial of access situation, you may not be able to get to your backups and vital records at all for a significant period.
- Many fire safes are not resistant to severe impact, such as that caused by an explosion, or the safe falling through the floor during a fire.
- Fire safes are not the same as security safes. Additional security may be required to ensure sufficient protection from theft.
In most cases, the best option is to store backups and vital records offsite, at least as far away as the extent of any potential police cordon (sometimes 500 metres or more). But if this option really isn’t open to you, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security and at least be aware of the risks you may be exposed to.