Organizations in regulated industries are required to adhere to records retention regulations, and school districts are no exception.
Educational institutions, just like any other business, rely on digital communication technologies for their day-to-day operation. From the compliance perspective, running a school is like running a business – inadequate management and archiving of electronic records, primarily email, can result in fines, penalties and reputation damage.
Still, email archiving is rarely a top priority for school districts.
There are other, more pressing issues that need to be addressed when you’re responsible for the future of the nation’s youth.
Another hurdle is that, unlike other organizations, K-12 schools receive limited federal and state funding. On the other hand, investing into email archiving can be a costly venture. For that reason, many districts opt for free solutions like Google Vault or do nothing at all – all with the aim of avoiding the high costs of implementing enterprise email archiving software.
Main Drivers of Email Archiving for School Districts
FOIA and FERPA Compliance
One of the relevant regulations that govern retention, storage and accessibility of all digital communications in the K-12 sector is Freedom of Information Act.
According to FOIA and similar state Sunshine Laws, public schools, colleges, universities and other government agencies must make available all records, including those in the electronic format (email, IM, social media and mobile). Schools are typically required to keep complete student files for 10 years and can be fined up to $1000 a day if they fail to comply with a FOIA request.
Speaking of FOIA deadlines by state, Vermont schools need to respond within the shortest time frame (2 days), while Maryland has the longest response frame of 30 days. Almost 25% of state deadlines vary between 3 to 5 days.
FERPA is another federal law that governs the access to educational information and records and may apply to electronic communication. Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) focuses on the protection of students’ educational records and allows the correction of any false information or faulty records.
The law also focuses on student privacy and lets students control how their personally identifiable information is kept, shared and managed.
Data archiving is important for FERPA because compliance managers will be able to track what information they have on a particular student, how well it is protected and who has access to it.
When it comes to meeting FOIA deadlines, archiving software helps by being able to search through millions of emails, social media exchanges, attachments, phone records etc. and get your team precise results that can then be exported to multiple formats and presented within the specified time frame.
In a K-12 environment, there’s high potential for litigation. If a school becomes implicated in a lawsuit, federal agencies, courts or attorneys might request electronically stored information relevant to the case.
Until recently, most schools stored their data on tapes, which means that administrators and the IT team have to organize extensive searches in order to produce the requested information in a timely manner.
The biggest hurdle that schools face here is that electronic information can be located anywhere – on the school’s email server, in PST files, on backup tapes, or, in the worst-case scenario, on somebody’s personal device.Without #emailarchiving, the biggest hurdle that schools face with #ediscovery is that the ESI can be located anywhere. Click To Tweet
Moreover, traditional backup methods are prone to errors and failures, which might result in data loss or corruption. Schools that fail to provide the requested information to litigators might be found guilty of evidence spoliation, be fined or even lose federal funding.
Finding the Best Email Archiving Solution for K-12
To choose your best fit, be aware that what’s best for other organizations might not be suitable for you and your needs.
The key thing to remember is that you’re looking for the best system for you, not the solution with the most features of the highest technical specifications. What you need is a system which:
- keeps the sensitive data you collect secure
- is easy to use and
- fits in your budget structure.
Security, Control and Feature Set
In schools, digital correspondence often contains sensitive information about students and staff, so it’s important that your email archiving software is secure.
If you’re having a dilemma about whether to use a cloud or on-premise archiving system, be aware that one of the major advantages of an on-premise solution lies in the level of security involved. When you are the one in charge of the archiving process and when it takes place under your roof, the amount of oversight and control is much higher than with hosted solutions.
K-12 schools generally can’t afford full-time IT professionals, which makes the simplicity of record management a vital piece of the puzzle. An on-premise email archiving solution is a device whose setup, implementation, monitoring and support is normally done by the vendor. Its upkeep doesn’t require much effort on the client side.
Having your entire email compliance managed by simply turning on a small device that works in the background is a definite advantage of an in-house approach to information archiving.
To sum it all up, the best email archiving solution for schools should be a system that can be used by anyone and which requires little or no training and maintenance effort. To work as a complete ediscovery and compliance solution, your email archiver of choice needs to be able to capture and index both future and legacy email.
Another advantage of on-premise email archiving is the fact that it’s a one-time cost with a minimal recurring maintenance fee.
On the other hand, cloud archiving software involves a lower initial cost, but much higher costs in the long run, which quickly exceeds the total costs of establishing an in-house archive. The choice would ultimately depend on the size of your district or whether your email archiving is handled by an intermediate unit or your own team.
Jatheon is a global email, social media and mobile archiving company with 16 years of experience in the public and K-12 sectors. There’s more information about the benefits of archiving email in the education industry in the articles below.
To learn more about how your school can improve FOIA and FERPA compliance and respond to legal requests faster, get in touch with us or get a demo.