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Email Retention

Question: 
Can you give us some guidance on what our policies should be regarding retention of email, both sent and received? We have some employees who never delete anything, with the result that their email boxes crash occasionally. Lots of emails are just one sentence long and don’t really mean much. How do you decide what to keep and what to delete? Do you recommend printing out emails for retention purposes? Are there programs that allow you to search emails across a network?
Answer: 

Answer by Dana Turner:
Consider saving EVERY email for five years. Emails are a particularly valuable investigative and validation tool -- and this time frame encompasses most statutes of limitations for both civil and criminal actions.

Also consider archiving emails according to a 30-day schedule. In other words, archive today the emails that were exchanged 30 days ago. You can save printing efforts and costs by saving this archive as an ASCII text file -- and this will allow you to conduct a word search using a word processor.

You can also compress these files to save space -- and remember to store a copy of archived emails with the other day's backups at an off-site storage location.

Answer: 

Answer by Clayton Hoskinson:

I would agree with Dana on keeping the emails for up to 5 years.

I wonder from your question if you are talking about keeping email on your desktop machine or are you speaking of your servers. As far as desktop machines go, the saving of specific email would be up to that end user, with a clear understanding that if they fail to delete email periodically they may loose their ability to send and receive email.

Servers are another topic, if you have an in-house email server, you could set it up so the emails are never off-loaded to the local (desktop) machine. You could archive the emails on the server anyway you want every 30 days as suggested by Dana, or once a quarter, it would actually be up to the DP people and storage space available. As far as printing out email, I would suggest writing them to CD if retention is what you want. I personally see that paper printing, over time will create another storage problem a few years down the road. Most email programs either on the server or at the client have the ability to be searched. If you have your own email server then it should be backed up along with the other servers and stored off-site as Dana mentioned. If you don't have your own email server and you are using a third party client and storing the messages on the local (desktop) machines, this is going to be more difficult. There are a number of issues to consider of this is the case.

First published on BankersOnline.com 6/4/01

First published on 06/04/2001

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