Businesses of all shapes and sizes have two things in common: they create data and they need to store it. Developing a strong archival policy will protect your data, which will, in turn, protect your company and drive profits. Listed below are several aspects to consider when developing your policy.
Business and Legal Needs: What do you Need and What do you Want
What information do you legally need to hold onto? What information does your business want to keep to effectively perform and grow? Making sure you know what is required to keep (and for how long) by law will save you a world of trouble (and possibly even lawsuits) in the future. Other things that might not be legally required for you to retain, such as customer information or email logs, may still be extremely valuable to your marketing or statistics departments.
Here are a few things to consider when deciding needs and wants:
- With what frequency will you need the info?
- Why do you have this data – Why was it made and why do you need to keep it?
- Who needs to have access to your data?
- What legal problems could arise if you didn’t keep this info?
- Will this data be replaced by new results/reports? If so, when?
Retention Policies: What to Keep and for How Long?
Deciding what to keep should be a fairly easy process. As described above, it should be reflective of the needs of the law and the wants of your business, but it can be more difficult to decide on how long you should keep things. Make sure to include the necessary time period required by law, but the rest is up to your discretion. Do you need to keep those 20-year-old customer surveys? Probably not. But surveys are certainly helpful within, say, 3-5 years, so you might want to make it a policy to discard them after 4. Make sure you don’t fall into the habit of keeping things too long. Letting go of obsolete records can be a huge cost saving initiative. Also, make sure that your collection and retention policy is well circulated to all employees. One uninformed person is all it takes to spark a major problem.
Storage Method: Where to Keep your Data and Why
Probably the most important tip for cost-saving is deciding which storage method is most appropriate for you. There is physical storage such as optical media, magnetic tape, or external hard drives, but those generally take up a lot of space and need to be updated periodically. For instance, optical media like CD or DVD ROMS can last indefinitely, but the newest computers these days do not have drives that can read these storage devices. Increasingly, businesses are going towards companies like file archiving solutions that offer massive amounts of cloud computer storage for lower costs. These types of services also offer the convenience of instant access from any device that is connected to the internet.
There are tons of aspects that need considering when developing an archival policy. From legal requirements to cost-saving storage, there are always things that will need a dedicated team to manage. The tips above are just a few steps to get you started on developing a perfect plan for your business.