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The Practical Guide To Email Records Management

Arguments concerning email communications and whether they count as records are not a new topic of discussion, but with recent events in the news it seems to be swiftly re-entering the national conversation. Outside of any political motivations, there is no question that best practices must be followed at all times when it comes to handling information that becomes part of the official record. This impetus stems not from a desire for transparency, but oftentimes a legal requirement.

With this in mind, we’ve collected a few tips on how to practice effective email management without exposing yourself to the risk of lawsuits and other legal action:

1) All information (e.g., emails and physical documents) needs to be managed in an records management system from creation through destruction.

One mistake we often see is not that organizations consider everything a record – the mistake is in believing that because everything is a record that radical changes are required in how information is managed from creation through destruction. The truth is that if a company concludes that everything is a record, then the document should be secured, accessible and disposed according to policy at the appropriate point in its lifecycle. Emails in this kind of system end up being treated no differently than any other kind of communication.

2) Carefully monitor the amount of duplicate communication

There is a lot of email duplication and there always will be with the volume of email that is sent daily. However, as long as there are standard policies and procedures in place to remove emails that are no longer needed and preserve those that are valuable, the duplicate emails will be eliminated. There is no need to spend a lot of time and effort trying to identify and eliminate duplicates if there is a good system and procedures in place for managing information over its lifecycle.  Email records can be copied to the desired records repository – and as long as there is a retention policy and procedure for all email, the remaining copies will be removed.

3) Divide emails into tiers for priority handling 

The sound approach for managing email records is to divide them into two record types, permanent and transitory, and two major lifecycle states, active and inactive (not being used or developed and infrequently accessed). This allows an organization to define policies that manage all information throughout its entire lifecycle, removing any confusion on what is a record or when it is a record, and focusing more on what to do with the records at different states in their lifecycle. Part of this approach is leveraging pre-existing human behavior for managing records. For example, most employees identify relevant emails and move or copy them to a personal or shared folder already. By simply changing the location of the folder to a controlled (active) location for transient records, IT managers have an improved chance of capturing records that are needed by the organization without creating an extra burden for the end user.

If you have any questions or specific concerns about how to handle specific situations, please do not hesitate to contact us and one of our experts will be more than happy to help! As an industry leader for over 30 years, The Data Vault takes pride in ensuring that our consulting and advice are on the cutting edge of progress in records management practices.

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