In today’s world of business communication, which is heavily regulated and dispute-oriented, email archiving is an absolute must.
That’s why most businesses already use some email archiving or email journaling solutions. However, this doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t review their efficiency and determine whether the email archiving practices still fulfill their needs.
If you want to ensure your business is on the right track in this area, the list of email archiving best practices for 2022 will help you.
1. Review Agency Regulations and Federal Laws
Depending on your business’s industry, you could be obliged to comply with laws and regulations that define specific record retention requirements.
If your organization does not follow these regulations, those responsible for compliance could face sky-high penalties or even prison time. Your organization’s reputation would also be damaged.
For instance, health care providers need to follow the HITECH and HIPAA. These acts set strict criteria for how organizations can electronically transmit sensitive and protected health information and how the electronic records sent via email must be archived.
That’s why one of email archiving best practices is thoroughly checking all relevant laws to avoid such possible adverse outcomes. This way, you can assure that your email archiving system complies with the regulations.
2. Turn to Your Legal Experts When Crafting Retention Policies
Another crucial part of email archiving best practices is establishing your company’s email retention policies. However, to ensure compliance with all the laws and regulations, make sure you include your legal team when creating the policies.
Your legal team has expert knowledge of which regulations your organization is subject to; they know all the requirements related to record retention and are familiar with the specific jargon used in them.
After all, as it is your legal team’s job to protect the company legally, make good use of that specific resource when crafting your retention policies. For additional information in this area, you can read more about the best practices when creating an email retention policy.
3. Build an “A-Team”
However, the legal team should not be the only subject consulted when drafting your organization’s retention policies.
Many other parties should play a role in creating these policies to ensure you follow email archiving best practices. To get a better idea of who to include, here is a short list of such parties:
- your stakeholders,
- administration team,
- compliance team / DPO
- finance team,
- production team,
- engineers, etc.
You should consider including a member of each department or team and forming an A-team accountable for dealing with this issue. This way, you will ensure that every business level is up to date and on the same page regarding email archiving and retention periods.
4. Define an Optimal Retention Period (or More Periods)
To align with email archiving best practices, create archiving policies that include an optimal, “high-water mark” retention period. Such a retention time would meet the requirements for many different regulations. This way, you can streamline your employees’ compliance and ensure your business is covered.
The recommended retention time for archiving emails can vary enormously from one regulation to another, even for various rules used in the same industry.
Following a single retention policy can be challenging for your employees, let alone multiple guidelines with varying retention periods.
For instance, your organization may be subjected to three significant regulations that require different retention periods of one, three, and seven years. Therefore, it’s most efficient to cover all three simultaneously by establishing a seven year retention period.
|Related: Email Retention Policy Best Practices for 2022|
5. Revise Your Retention Policies Annually
Laws and regulations which affect the retention of records change very often. If your business’s email retention policies are not updated to reflect the latest changes, something might slip through the cracks and cost you a fortune later.
Reviewing and revising your policies annually with your legal and A-team is the most efficient way to guarantee that guidelines, as well as your business, stay legally compliant.
6. Archive Other Forms of Business Communication
Most companies already know why it’s essential to keep up with email archiving best practices.
However, social media and SMS messages have also gained momentum as business communication channels.
Businesses now need to consider archiving other correspondence types, including them in their policies, and searching for comprehensive email, SMS, and social media archiving solutions.
|Related: Social Media Archiving in Regulated Industries: Why It Matters in 2022|
7. Automate Your Retention Policies
If keeping up with the email archiving best practices is genuinely your goal, you need to opt for an archiving solution with the retention policy feature.
Your departments may have very different email retention requirements – different retention windows may be necessary for emails sent by your customer support, billing, or HR department. That’s why the solution should allow multiple and customizable retention policies.
To enable efficient full compliance, you need an archiving solution to automatically delete emails from the records after a specific period expires. Such an archiving solution will never remove any email under litigation hold, but will limit your liability by automatically removing all correspondence that you’re no longer obligated to keep.
|Related: Why Legal Hold Is a Must-Have Feature in Email Archiving|
8. Make Simple Retention Schedules for Your Employees
If you want to make it easier for your employees to follow email retention guidelines, you can make the entire process more straightforward by creating simple retention policy schedules.
The last thing they need is having to go through hundreds of pages of policy documentation.
Completing such a task can consume their valuable time that they could have spent on more important tasks instead.
To ensure you’re keeping up with email archiving best practices, try to put the crucial information about the schedules on a single page. Also, ensure that the document is easily scannable.
9. Inform Your Workforce About Any Policy Changes
However, reviewing and updating your email retention policy alone isn’t enough if the employees who should follow it don’t know about the changes in the procedure.
After you’ve updated your policies, inform all your employees of any changes that might affect their practice.
To ensure they are working under the best email archiving practices, explain the reasons behind the changes and where they can find updated policy schedules and all relevant documentation.
10. Automate Legal Hold
When you’ve created solid retention strategies, you’re ready to move on to the next step and automate the process of email archiving.
Most current archiving solutions can conduct real-time capturing – they can fetch all email traffic real-time, index and archive emails in a safe, tamper-proof storage.
Some solutions even offer comprehensive automation, including the legal hold process automation. Using such solutions, businesses can easily find the necessary email records in case of litigation or an ediscovery request and freeze the records in question by applying legal hold.
When placed under legal hold (a “policy” which supersedes all the regular retention policies), no records can be removed. This prevents any accidental or deliberate data tampering or obstruction.
11. Support Your Employees to Do away with PST Files
Most laws and regulations specify that all archived emails need to be tamper-resistant.
However, if your employees are used to archiving PST files and storing them onto hard disks, this can quickly become a serious problem. Since PST files are far from tamper-proof, your company could find it hard to prove that they weren’t edited if you face a dispute.
But this is just one of the reasons why you should prevent your employees from storing emails as PST files. Other reasons are that these files are device-specific and restricted to Outlook, prone to corruption, and often bypass retention policies.
12. Choose Scaling Storage to Fit Your Growing Business Needs
No matter if you’re replacing your current email archiving system or choosing your first one, one of the critical email archiving best practices is selecting a solution that offers storage that can grow with your business.
This way, you can always scale the storage size according to your needs.
As your business advances, the amount of storage you need for email archiving purposes will only grow and might start to strain your servers additionally. This means that you could potentially need one or a few terabytes of storage, depending on your business’s size and the number of users whose email records you’re planning on archiving.
13. Evaluate Your Needs Before Opting For a Solution
Most email archiving solutions on the market offer the same fundamental set of features. Still, some products are more potent than others or are designed to address specific needs of a particular industry.
Before investing your money, you should evaluate your business challenges and need to know which kind of product would address them.
Some of the questions you should consider are:
- Are you in a highly regulated industry?
- Do you anticipate frequent audits and litigation?
- Do you currently have a lot of PST files?
Once you’ve evaluated your business needs, you’ll be ready to make a well-informed decision and choose the solution that will fit them.
If you’re leaning towards an on-premise system, check out this comprehensive guide on how to choose the right solution (23 vital features organized into categories!).
By following the critical email archiving best practices offered above and opting for a trustworthy and robust solution, you will ensure your procedures are up to date and streamline compliance with all the relevant regulations in your state and industry.