Over the past decade, email has become an indispensable tool for every business, both for external and internal communication. Gone are the days of handwritten or typed memos and letters. With the advent of electronic communication, though, has come risk. Email archiving for compliance of regulatory and legal requirements has become a necessity for every business, regardless of size.
Email as form of everyday communication
Think about it. How many times during the course of a day does your company send an email to customers? Even small businesses use electronic communications to bid on jobs, update the status of projects, or communicate order status. More importantly, an email can contain legal commitments that carry the same weight as a contract.
In the event of a legal action, all electronic communication is discoverable. For example, if your company is facing a sexual harassment lawsuit because one employee sent unwanted (or explicit) email to another, all of your company emails could be considered evidential in a hearing to establish a workplace environment that is tolerant of such behavior. An email trail can develop a pattern of business practices, both good and bad.
The above are just a few examples of why email archiving for compliance purposes is so important. Easy accessibility to and retrievability of electronic communications may be necessary in order to verify your company’s adherence to laws and regulations of just about any nature.
Email archiving is a must-have for compliance
- You must have a robust electronic communication policy that spells out both company expectations of employees, and the potential legal ramifications of any electronic communications (email, Skype, corporate electronic bulletin boards, social media interactions, etc.) initiated from the workplace.
- This written policy must be clear that no electronic communication initiated from a workplace technology platform (and this can even extend to company-issued smartphones) is privileged or private.
- Data retention policies should also be spelled out – in other words, how long all electronic communication on the company network is archived, backed up, stored and retained.
- It must be clear to all employees that, as previously discussed, all written electronic communication is considered discoverable, for whatever reason. For example, divorce attorneys have subpoenaed personal email sent by an employee through a corporate email system.
Another thing to consider when thinking about email archiving for compliance is where to actually archive the data. In a large company, the amount of archived electronic communication data to be stored can be very storage space intensive. Similar to retaining paper documentation, it may make sense to consider archiving or backing up electronic data offsite or in the cloud so a) it doesn’t take up valuable space on your own servers, and b) can be retrieved in a disaster recovery scenario.