It’s a well-known fact that digitised records take up much less space than paper records but does that mean you should just keep storing your records forever?
Many businesses fall into the trap of keeping all their records, clogging up computer systems and data silos and forcing staff to sift through thousands and thousands of documents to find the one they need. This is a why a retention schedule is a valuable business tool.
What is a retention schedule?
The aim of a retention schedule is to outline the period of time and the way in which a record, paper or electronic, must be kept or ‘retained’ before it is either archived or destroyed.
Why do you need one?
According to American records management company, TAB, a records retention schedule reduces the growth of records by providing an approved timeline for the disposal of records at appropriate periods. This improves company efficiency by helping staff find current records quicker and easier.
More importantly, a good records retention schedule can reduce the risks and liabilities that can be associated with document destruction.
“Rather than arbitrary records disposal made selectively by managers and corporate executives, established retention methods help demonstrate that disposal actions are not motivated to suppress or conceal unfavourable evidence or information, should these actions become the subject of criminal or civil proceedings,” the company states.
How long should retention periods be?
The retention period varies for different types of records and different types of businesses.
ARMA International, the leading records management association, advises that retention periods should be determined by four requirements:
- Legal and regulatory – Federal, state, local, and even international laws mandate the retention of some records and information for a specific period of time. Failure to comply with laws and regulations may result in costly penalties and loss of legal rights.
- Fiscal – Records that have financial or tax value must be retained including invoices, sales vouchers or receipts, expense receipts, cash register tapes, credit card statements, bank deposit book, cheque butts and account statements. In Australia, keeping fiscal records is also a legal obligation by the Australian Tax Office.
- Operational – Records that support the functioning and organisation of the business should be kept to meet business needs. These are usually determined by general managers or the company board.
- Historical – Records that depict the history of the business or organisation should be preserved. Examples of historical records include articles of incorporation, bylaws, charters, and board of directors’ minutes.
If I have converted all my records to digital, can I destroy the originals?
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question. By law, some records must be kept in their original formats, others are acceptable in electronic format. When creating your retention schedule, it is important you familiarise yourself with the regulations surrounding your records. If you’re not sure where to find those regulations, our friendly consultants at Grace Information Management can help steer you in the right direction.
How do I put my retention schedule into place?
Grace Information Management can help action your retention schedule for all documents stored in the Grace Data Centre. We can set a locked date/time specifying a time before which documents cannot be deleted. Furthermore, we can establish a destruction date/time specifying a time after which documents will be deleted. All our destruction policies can also require document reviews prior to scheduling destruction. Document reviews can trigger an email which can optionally include a link to take the recipient directly to the list of documents to be reviewed. This ensures nothing is accidentally deleted.
How does Grace destroy my documents?
Grace provides secure deletion that meets industry standards (US DoD 5220.22-M 3 passes) and all servers get securely decommissioned.
If you need to create a retention schedule for your electronic documents, give Grace Information Management a call. Remember, just because you have the space to store documents, doesn’t mean you should.