General discussion

Locked

IT Debate: E-mail retention policies

By debate ·
According to Gartner, the e-mail retention policy of an enterprise must be consistent with its policy on paper documents as well as with its culture. Does your organization have a formal e-mail policy? If not, has your organization or coworkers suffered any negative consequences from the lack of an e-mail policy? If you do have rules, tell us what?s been working. You can read the related Gartner article, which will be posted 3 A.M. Wednesday, at http://www.techrepublic.com/article.jhtml?id=r00620010110ggp01.htm

This conversation is currently closed to new comments.

17 total posts (Page 1 of 2)   01 | 02   Next
| Thread display: Collapse - | Expand +

All Comments

Collapse -

IT Debate: E-mail retention policies

by Gregory W. Smith In reply to IT Debate: E-mail retenti ...

Email is a different medium from paper and is expected to be ephemeral with many of my clients.

Retention is generally maxed out at one year with server policies, and backups are made nightly and weekly, but not at month-end or year end - just enough for disaster recovery.

(No Microsoft discoveries for these folks!)

Collapse -

IT Debate: E-mail retention policies

by debate In reply to IT Debate: E-mail retenti ...

Poster rated this answer

Collapse -

IT Debate: E-mail retention policies

by smithjj In reply to IT Debate: E-mail retenti ...

Our company has a policy of deleting email after 30 days. It is considered transitory communication. The email system does this automatically.

There are many document retention categories--the longest is "as long as the information is active". Since we support parts in our equipment for as long as our equipment is in the field, this can mean some electronic documents are expected to last more than fifty years. If an e-mail is important, it may be assigned a different e-mail category and retained up to 3 years. It is assumed important information is kept in another system rather than e-mail.

We have annual housekeeping days and annual audits of our paper files to ensure we are removing old files. We keep track of the physical and electronic storage we save by this policy. It saves many cabinets and disk drives every year.

Collapse -

IT Debate: E-mail retention policies

by smithjj In reply to IT Debate: E-mail retenti ...

I have to disagree with coyerga@ucarb.com

" Separate document retention requirements from personal e-mail
communications. Documents related to projects, contracts, customers, etc. should
be managed in a repository in accordance with data retention and legal
guidelines. E-mail (like paper on your desk) should be managed by the individual
within a limited space allocation. The challenge is to educate and motivate
employees to identify key documents and follow Repository management
procedures. "

E-mail IS a document and it MUST be managed. It can cause billions of dollars of damage to the company if an inappropriate e-mail retained by an employee for no good reason is used to justify a billion dollar liability suit.

Collapse -

IT Debate: E-mail retention policies

by smithjj In reply to IT Debate: E-mail retenti ...

I also disagree with Timotheus:
<snip>
"Our company did try to enforce an e-mail retention
policy, but this policy worked only on people that were not ?pack rats? by nature.
First, our former e-mail system (cc:Mail) was set to delete messages 30 days old.
Users started creating rules to store messages in folders instead of the ?Inbox?
(folders were not subject for automatic cleaning). Second, we went to check how
much space was used by different accounts in the e-mail database andrecommended those who used most space to get rid of the old e-mails. Instead
the users created archives on their hard drives. Later when we switched to
Openmail with OE as clients, the situation did not change at all. When we tried an
experiment of setting rules for deleting old messages, users started printing them
out to preserve them!
To my mind setting some abstract rules cannot enforce such a policy. Just like one
cannot unify the writing style of all of the company?s employees, one will not be
able to create a specific ?e-mail retention policy?. <snip>
If the user knows that he/she has only this much space to store e-mails, database
files, documents and so on and if he/she has good guidelines on how to build
his/her OWN retention policy, then this will work."

E-mail retention is not a personal style issue. E-mail is a corporate possession, to be diposed of according to corporate needs. To retain it without a business purpose is to violate a managementresponsibility to manage assets properly. A simple effective solution to the examples of non-compliance you cite is to educate. Explain the business reasons for document deletion after a period time. Devote time each year for this specific purpose. Show that it is important. And if some individuals are still non-compliant, correct them.

Collapse -

IT Debate: E-mail retention policies

by smithjj In reply to IT Debate: E-mail retenti ...

Timotheus:
"And if some individuals are still non-compliant, correct them." - how? By manually deleting all
they managed to pack? What if they are successful businessmen despite the fact that they
are sloppy e-mail users? "
Good questions. This is why correction is a management judgment and not a policy. What I had in mind was a lowering of annual performance rating, if the email violation was unjustified and harmful. The person's overall performance must be taken into account, as you say.

<snip description of some with unlimited Inet access and some with limited access>

" As my management is not paying same wages to both of the above described groups of
staff members, I cannot impose one policy on e-mail, though it IS definitely a corporate asset -
but is still pretty much personal, as the messages come addressed to the employees of the
corporation, NOT to the corporation in general. I do not see an urgent need to break the habits
of my co-workers and have no desire to turn into a ?big evil brother? instead of being
regarded and treated as a business supporter. Besides I did not see any improvement when I
was taking steps in that direction? why should I impose something like the discussed policy,
justbecause it should be done? "

I agree that if there is no corporate policy, you have to be cautious in how you proceed. However, I think you are in dangerous legal ground: 1) The unlimited Inet access doesn't seem to have affected your business, but won't you be criminally liable to a sexual harrassment suit if an employee (unknown to you) uses Inet porn to harrass a co-worker? 2)Your lack of a company policy on ownership of email may prevent you from deleting legally damaging email an employee may possess. You're establishing a dangerous precedent. 3) Unless you have a unified policy on Inet and e-mail for all employees, I don't think you can enforce anything.

Collapse -

IT Debate: E-mail retention policies

by debate In reply to IT Debate: E-mail retenti ...

Your answer was featured in our IT Debate TechMail. To receive your free subscription to the IT Debate TechMail, sign up at http://www.techrepublic.com/techmails.jhtml

Collapse -

IT Debate: E-mail retention policies

by UK77062 In reply to IT Debate: E-mail retenti ...

Separate document retention requirements from personal e-mail communications. Documents related to projects, contracts, customers, etc. should be managed in a repository in accordance with data retention and legal guidelines. E-mail (like paper onyour desk) should be managed by the individual within a limited space allocation. The challenge is to educate and motivate employees to identify key documents and follow Repository management procedures.

Collapse -

IT Debate: E-mail retention policies

by debate In reply to IT Debate: E-mail retenti ...

Poster rated this answer

Collapse -

IT Debate: E-mail retention policies

by Timotheus In reply to IT Debate: E-mail retenti ...

Despite the fact that the computers are used more and more in everyday business, the majority of documents is still stored in paper form. Why? Human nature. People cannot part with some of their habits such as trying to keep some evidence of their business results.

The same is true with e-mail. Our company did try to enforce an e-mail retention policy, but this policy worked only on people that were not ?pack rats? by nature. First, our former e-mail system (cc:Mail) was set to delete messages 30 days old. Users started creating rules to store messages in folders instead of the ?Inbox? (folders were not subject for automatic cleaning). Second, we went to check how much space was used by different accounts in the e-mail database and recommended those who used most space to get rid of the old e-mails. Instead the users created archives on their hard drives. Later when we switched to Openmail with OE as clients, the situation did not change at all. When we tried an experiment of setting rules for deleting old messages, users started printing them out to preserve them!

To my mind setting some abstract rules cannot enforce such a policy. Just like one cannot unify the writing style of all of the company?s employees, one will notbe able to create a specific ?e-mail retention policy?. I see the solution to this problem only in auditing features of the newest operating systems, such as Windows 2000. If the user knows that he/she has only this much space to store e-mails, database files, documents and so on and if he/she has good guidelines on how to build his/her OWN retention policy, then this will work.

I say, as long as the user stores e-mail messages on his own HDD ? let him keep whatever he wants.

Back to Software Forum
17 total posts (Page 1 of 2)   01 | 02   Next

Related Discussions

Related Forums