People often ask me if I recommend downloading paperless statements and bills, or if it is okay to leave them on the bank or other vendor’s website.
My answer to this is always the same: do whatever works for you, but I always recommend downloading your electronic documents.
Why is this?
You Need To Control Your Data
It takes extra work, but my opinion is that you need to be the one to control your data.
Your paperless statements on your bank’s website? They’ll only be there for a set amount of time.
How long is that set amount of time? It varies. Six months, a year, eighteen months, six years? You are completely at the mercy of the bank’s IT department. If they decide they want to cut the amount of time that statements are stored, there is nothing you can do about it.
If you have downloaded the statement, it doesn’t matter what the bank does. You are in control.
Even Awesome Services Go Away
Just because a service is popular does not mean it will survive. Case in point: Manilla is closing as of July 1, 2014.
Many people used Manilla to take the billing process paperless. What could be better than managing and paying bills in one place through the web, and then having free online document storage?
Well, users have until September 30, 2014 to get their documents out of Manilla. After that, they will be gone. Judging by the company’s Twitter stream, users are now scrambling to download their documents.
By the way, for Manilla refugees, a feature I like in the FileThis service is its ability to automatically download bills and statements, but you can then have them automatically download to your computer. You get some of the benefits of Manilla, but you don’t have to worry about ending up in the same place later.
Does This Mean Don’t Use The Cloud?
I am absolutely not saying that you should only store your documents locally and not use the cloud.
What I am saying is that no one cares about your data as much as you do. Want to use a cloud synchronization service? Go for it. But have a local backup of your information, and know how to get your stuff out of your chosen platform before you are forced to.
Manilla users are fortunate that they have four months to download their information – not everyone will be so lucky.
I have always appreciated Evernote CEO Phil Libin’s proactive stance on how they treat user data with their Three Laws of Data Protection:
Everything we do at Evernote follows these three basic rules:
Your Data is Yours
Your Data is Protected
Your Data is Portable
The key law is the first one: your data is yours. Even if you entrust it to a third party, you are still responsible for your own data. You would be well served to take that responsibility seriously.
(Photo by Faramarz Hashemi)