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A Case for 100% Email Retention 100% of the time

Delete is a scary option. There aren’t many times you’ll swallow hard before clicking ‘OK’, but delete tends to draw that reaction. It may be a generational thing, but most of us are very suspicious of deleting. We’ll create copy upon copy of a document, just to make sure we don’t lose data. Because we know the potential consequences of clicking delete, or even just accidentally clicking ‘Do not save’.

This fear usually comes from the “lazy” part of our minds, we’re not really afraid of the delete. We’re afraid of repeating the work. The real fear comes in when you think about deleting and compliance.

Deleting Email and Australian Law

There are numerous Australian laws that require certain emails to be retained. Organisations have obligations under Australian law and need to ensure that emails are adequately retained for at least the minimum periods for retention. Failure to adequately retain all business communications could place specific employees, board directors, and the organisation as a whole at risk of severe penalties.

Some examples of minimum email retention periods are:

  • Simple contracts                              6 years after discharge
  • Workplace relations                        7 years minimum
  • Deeds                                                12 years after discharge
  • Land contracts                                 12 years after discharge
  • Product liability                               10 years minimum
  • Patent deeds                                     20 years
  • Trademarks                                      6 years after life of trademark
  • Risk assessments                           30 years

Email Archiving Saves Deleting Excuses

Email and other digital documents need to be treated with the same level of care and respect as paper documents receive. This is where solutions like email archiving come in. A good system will archive and backup your email immediately, before you get the chance to accidentally delete it. It’s the equivalent of someone photocopying your paper work.

Email archiving solutions don’t just save you from an accidental delete. They also make sure someone else can’t alter the archive. In order to ensure you remain compliant, an email archiving solution will prevent you from deleting from the archive. This guarantees the integrity of your archive and could save you from a big financial loss.

Deleting can be a very scary thought and the consequences are even scarier. Email archiving can’t prevent you from making the mistake, but it can help you avoid the consequences.

It makes commercial sense that businesses create and implement an appropriate email retention policy in order to manage the risks. This policy must seek to meet specific retention requirements as outlined in key legislation and common law to minimise potential liabilities.

Some tips you may consider regarding email retention:

Archive your emails - Organisations are responsible for maintaining the accuracy, accessibility and security of their email records. You need to implement a robust email retention policy and email archiving system and ensure that it is followed by all employees.

Have an automated archive system - Your organisation and its officers could be responsible for the acts or omissions of employees. The completeness of the email archive may need to be proven in court. The best way to ensure employee compliance is to automatically apply retention rules to your email archive, rather than rely on each employee to manually archive their own emails.

Capture every email - Do not destroy documents that could potentially be relevant to future litigation. You need to automatically capture and archive every email that your organisation receives.

Be aware of how your emails are stored - The content, context and structure of emails are relevant in discovery proceedings. Your email archive needs to enable you to keep and be able to export all your emails in their original form.

Retain your emails for the right length of time - Be aware of the minimum statutory retention periods that apply to your organisation and control the destruction of documents accordingly.

Use one central archiving system across your whole business – No matter how geographically dispersed your business is, or how many emails may exist, you need to bring them all into one central archive. This way you will know how and where all your emails are stored, and be able to access them whenever needed.

Email retrieval needs to be straightforward - Ensure that wherever you archive your emails, there is a simple, quick, and clear procedure for email search and retrieval that will allow you to quickly respond to legal discovery requests.

The archive needs to keep your emails secure – Your email archive should encrypt all your email data as it travels from the primary message store to the archive, and it should also be encrypted while it is stored in the archive.