In business, compliance can mean several things ‒ conforming to rules and laws mandated by the government, state or industry, complying with international standards or sticking to your own internal policies. Regulatory compliance is a goal that companies strive to achieve in order to demonstrate that they respect the relevant laws, regulations and policies. Although compliance largely depends on the type of business and industry it belongs to, there are certain standards that the government requires of all companies.
Regulatory Compliance and Electronic Records
In this blog post, we’re interested in compliance laws and regulations that mandate the retention of electronic records. Many US federal laws that deal with records retention now include electronically stored information (laws dealing with job application, workplace fairness, safety, regulations by the IRS, Freedom of Information Act, Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure etc.). All these regulations require the retention of electronically stored data for a certain period of time (typically 7 years) and a certain level of data security.
In order to make sure your business is fully compliant, the first step is research. This can be challenging, as many pieces of legislation are written broadly in order to apply to a number of cases, which makes them difficult and time-consuming to decipher and analyze. The key is to view them in relation to your own business, check whether and how a particular law applies to your organization and only then implement. This initial research stage might require you to hire or consult a legal expert.
Implementing regulations may pose additional difficulties ‒ it may involve organizing training sessions for staff, hiring more employees or purchasing new equipment. Enterprise data retention is a part of compliance that’s often a challenge. This is because retention regulations demand that organizations keep extensive records of business communications and for much longer than it would normally be necessary from the organization’s standpoint. Moreover, the term “records” is no longer limited to paper documents and email, but includes alternative communications such as social media, mobile calls, texts and voice messages, IM etc. Regulations and the retention periods that you need to adhere to in order to stay compliant are often in partial opposition to data privacy laws, which creates additional confusion.The term “records” is no longer limited to paper documents and email, but includes electronic communications such as social media, mobile chats and calls, instant messages etc. Click To Tweet
Technological Compliance Solutions
To use resources wisely and align their compliance initiatives, businesses typically use various compliance controls, including technological solutions. Information archiving solutions are powerful on-premise hardware appliances or cloud-based solutions that automatically capture, index and archive your data and make large volumes of archived information searchable and retrievable in seconds. Regulations often mandate that electronic data such as email and social media needs to be stored in a secure, tamper-proof format, and that’s what made information archiving a practice that quickly turned from best practice to necessity.
High-quality archiving solutions have advanced search and legal hold features that allow easy eDiscovery and compliance with various laws and regulations in regulated industries and beyond. They ensure easy policy management and allow storage in mandated WORM formats.
5 Easy Steps to Compliance
- Assess your regulatory requirements ‒ Although we already talked about this obvious first step, you’d be surprised with how many organizations start implementing procedures before reviewing their email and social media compliance requirements first.
- Set compliance procedures and educate employees ‒ Once you have reviewed and understood your requirements, you need to address policy. Every member of staff from the top down should be aware of their individual responsibilities. The most common compliance problem isn’t the lack of procedure, but individual errors and confusion over requirements and responsibilities.
- Identify and purchase an information archiving solution ‒ Make sure you have the appropriate hardware and software to retain your data. You should explore your archiving options carefully and take time to compare various vendors, archiving plans and relevant features to consider. Don’t forget to assess your data backups and be disaster ready. You can’t assume your data is 100% secure in one location. The most comprehensive email and social media archiving strategy includes disaster recovery.
- Follow industry trends ‒ Your email and other unstructured data won’t be secure if you only lock the door to the server room. Both the management and your IT team need to stay on top of your security software and make sure it’s kept up-to-date. This means following trends and reviewing industry changes. For instance, the majority of US organizations in regulated industries archive email, but only 2-20% archive social media, which does not reflect compliance laws that have been amended to include alternative electronic channels (social media, mobile, video content…) into the definition of what constitutes a business record.
- Cooperate with your archiving services provider ‒ Nobody knows more about archiving technology, features and processes than the company that archives your data. Take the time to discuss your current plan, explore upgrade options, identify gaps in your policies or highlight best practices. Remember that compliance is not an organizational issue only and that you’ll often need to revise your archiving strategy.
Remember the Consequences of Non-Compliance
The penalties for non-compliance with regulations are typically severe. So severe they’re known to have put companies out of business. Take GLBA, the law that regulates the collection and use of non-public personal information in the financial industry in the US. Penalties can range from $5,500 to $1.1 million. In Europe, the anticipated GDPR will have a two-tiered approach to penalties, with maximum fine amounting to €20 million or 4% of the company’s global annual turnover, whichever is higher.
Jatheon creates email, social media and mobile archiving and monitoring solutions. We’re driven to help clients comply with regulations, avoid lawsuits and protect the integrity of their brands. To learn how Jatheon can assist you with choosing and implementing an archiving solution, contact us or schedule your personal tour.