One of the key questions asked of me in my current position at Contoural is this one: How long should we (the client company) save our email messages? Not surprisingly, I encounter a wide variety of answers to this question – Legal and IT usually wants a short retention time, while end users seem to want to keep everything forever.
The answer to this question can vary greatly based on conditions, but it is always a solvable problem. Email is a unique application, and is especially interesting when it comes to litigation and e-discovery, so creating a corporate policy for retention, and implementing it, is critical. The quandry often boils down to a simple question: Is the email system a repository of business records or a temporal system for communication? You would never implement a policy for retaining cardboard boxes or manilla folders, because you never know whether it contains an important memo (or a MacBook Air!) But email could be considered the same way – it’s a mechanism not a data type!
Another key point is that IT often feels that it cannot unilaterally implement a retention policy without outside involvement. This is true, to a point, but IT had better start the discussion, or they’ll be asked to implement an unreasonable (or technologically unfeasible) policy sooner or later. Strange as it may sound, a policy that reflects the functionality of email archiving systems might be a good place to start, since this is all you can really implement anyway!
This topic is discussed in far more detail in my new whitepaper (sponsored by Symantec), How Long Should Email Be Saved? Download a copy from their web site to see more information about what a retention policy looks like, the impact of various laws and regulations, and how to get a retention project off the ground!