Email Archiving and Retention – not scary, not optional, ok – maybe a little intimidating at first…

Most business owners don’t realize that they must comply with the Federal Regulations on Civil Procedures which mandate court access to archived email communication. If you perform a web search for the words “Email Archive Retention” you’ll find phrases like “regulatory compliance,” “retention and deletion control,” “document retention,” “filtering, retention, and discovery,” “litigation support…” (the list goes on and on). You may think these intimidating phrases apply only to government organizations and those in corporate America, but that fact is that email has become the core of business communications for 90% of most small to mid-sized business. Email archiving and retention policies need to be developed for all businesses regardless of size or industry. 

Let me ask you some key questions: What percentage of your business communications happen through email? Looking back over the last few years, has your email usage steadily increased? Does your current data backup solution include email? I’m willing to bet that your email usage is on the rise and that you aren’t really sure about the current status of your email archiving. If this is you, read on!!

Information related to the Federal Regulations on Civil Procedures can be found online at: (rules 26, 34, and 37). Here’s a quick question to determine if you might fall under the jurisdiction of these rules: Can your company be sued in federal court? I believe that almost all companies could answer “yes.” While the federal regulations are an umbrella encompassing all companies, certain organizations have more stringent requirements: Banks and financial institutions are bound by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, brokers and traders are under the jurisdiction of the SEC, hospitals and medical institutions are regulated by HIPAA, and publicly traded companies are bound by Sarbanes-Oxley.  Regardless of your industry you need to be prepared to produce archived email for any possible lawsuit either in federal or state court.

So, what happens if you just destroy all your old email? See rule number 37 of the Federal Regulations on Civil Procedures; “Failure to Make Disclosures or to Cooperate in Discovery; Sanctions.” You’ll find wording like: “Contempt of court,” “Rendering  default judgment,” and “Pay reasonable expenses, including attorney’s fees.” Proper email archiving can be your assurance that none of these consequences will apply to you!

How confident are you in your company’s ability to produce email from an interaction you had with a customer two years ago?  The thought of archiving and retention may seem like a scary endeavor, but take it a step at a time. You should be able to develop and begin implementing a successful policy within a matter of a few months.

The core problem in implementing a successful archival policy lies mainly in the difficulty of getting your key department representatives, your IT support and your legal support to work hand in hand to create the policy. Keep everyone involved until the policy is nailed down. The tendency to hand the policy-making off directly to IT must be avoided. Your archival solution will be counted on by your legal support, accessed daily by your employees and kept running by your IT staff. Each of these entities in your organization have different needs and views related to the archival; all must be considered.

There are many options and products for making email archival and retention work. Although there is not a one-size-fits all product out there, you should certainly consider the following in planning your policy:

·         ease and frequency of searching your archived email

·         ease of restoring your archived email (most archiving is NOT in PST format)

·         the security or encryption level of the archive

·         the length of time email will be retained

·         whether the archival process will be automated or manual

·         onsite or offsite storage of archived data

Once your policy has been established, you will need to choose a product that meets your needs. Although there are many services and products available, email archival and retention solutions fall into two main categories: Customer-owned (hardware/network appliances) and Hosted (offsite). The bottom line is not just affordability. Your solution must work for your particular needs and should provide efficient access to stored information both now and in the future as you rely more and more on email communication.

For more information on email archiving and retention, please contact Jesse Spencer at


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 Jesse Spencer

Jesse Spencer has been a technology applications expert for over ten years with a background in business dynamics and project management. Recently he has been focusing in the area of telecommunications and IT services and is quickly becoming a well known voice in the industry. Click here to get more on Jesse!


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