Solid Document Retention Plan Can End Up Saving You Millions

A written and comprehensive document retention plan isn’t just important for your business operations — it’s also a critical component of legal and regulatory compliance. A document retention policy creates solid protocols for your employees to follow, both improving upon document management and creating a paper trail that can be followed in the event that it becomes necessary to defend document destruction in court. Further, a document retention plan will better facilitate the process of eDiscovery, drastically cutting down on the materials that need to be sorted through and processed.

Here are a few of the major features that your document retention plan should include:

1. Identify What Should Be Kept and What Should Be Eliminated

Ideally, the only data that should be kept indefinitely and persistently is the critical data that your business needs to function. Everything else should have both an archival date and a destruction date. Upon archival, the data can be stored separately, in the event that it is needed again in the near future. Once the destruction date has passed, the data can be removed from archives forever. Segregating your documents by priority is an important first step in developing a document retention plan. More critically, this type of document classification needs to be developed in a way that it can be consistently followed. If documents are archived and destroyed inconsistently, it can raise both questions and issues later on.

2. Create a Timeframe for Eliminating Documents

Creating a reasonable timeframe for document destruction depends on quite a few factors. When it comes to documents that may have a legal use, it’s general practice to keep these documents in hand until which time they would be unnecessary. For instance, copies of client files may be stored until the files have reached limitation periods. The timeframes for which documents need to be stored are generally up to the organization. Usually files will only go into an archive when they are no longer actively being used and they will be destroyed when it is no longer reasonable to believe that they will need to be used in the future.

3. Determine How These Documents Will Be Stored

Electronic document storage is the most convenient and easiest way to archive and later destroy documentation. Storing your documents through a computer system will make it easy to enforce your protocols, as documents can be quickly sorted through and filtered once they reach their destruction date. This also creates an audit trail for your document retention policies and protocols, as it will show that documents are destroyed consistently after a certain amount of time.

4. Develop a Strategy for Implementation

Having a plan in place doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be followed — or that it will go off without a hitch. In addition to creating a document retention plan, you also need to develop a strategy for implementation. This includes the training of employees and regular auditing of the process. It should be ensured that not only are the proper documents being destroyed in a timely fashion, but that they are being stored and destroyed using safe and secure methods.

Not having a data retention policy may lead to some potentially expensive and damaging scenarios. If an organization cannot defend their document retention policies — or do not have any consistent policies — they can face serious legal issues. This occurred in an early 2015 case, in which an aerospace engines manufacturer was unable to show a methodology to their destruction of critical documents. They were subsequently ordered to pay $28 million for these destroyed documents, which were unavailable to the eDiscovery process. But you don’t need to develop your data retention policies and procedures alone. Platinum IDS can help. Reach out to us today if you want to learn more about the tools that can make your data management, retention, and destruction processes easier.

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Author Sid Newby

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