E-mail and Other Electronic Records

All University records must be managed in accordance with the University-wide Records Management Principles regardless of the format of the records. Most University employees conduct University business via e-mail and these e-mail messages are often records. Likewise, documents created and shared on computers are also often records. In the event of litigation or audit University employees may be asked to provide e-mail messages or other electronic records pertaining to the event. The following sections provide some basic tips for managing your e-mail and other electronic records to facilitate timely destruction and ease the process of providing the necessary records required in the event of litigation or audit.

Filing Electronic Documents on Your Hard Drive

  • Maintain all of your documents in one directory (e.g., My Documents) and in appropriate subdirectories within that directory. This is far preferable to saving documents on your desktop or in other, non-document directories.
  • Use standard file-naming methods, with the goal of being able to identify the contents of a file without having to open it.
  • Remember that directories are “the drawers and folders in your computer’s filing cabinet.” Create directories and subdirectories as needed.
  • The goal is to have every file in its appropriate folder – no orphans!

E-Mail Management

  • Create a meaningful directory structure within your e-mail application.
  • Delete or file most e-mail messages immediately after reading them and empty the deleted items folder once a month (the delay in emptying the deleted items folder allows for retrieval of accidentally or mistakenly deleted messages).
  • File the final message in a conversation when it includes significant information exchange.
  • Save e-mail messages that are of value to a larger audience (e.g., coworkers who should have access to the records) or that require long-term retention as documents outside of the e-mail system (e.g., in an appropriately secured part of your departmental shared drive or shared document management system).
  • Copy yourself on messages you wish to keep (and then file them!) and set your e-mail application to purge "Sent Items" regularly.
  • Purge e-mail routinely, especially "non-record" e-mail such as meeting scheduling, unsolicited e-mails, etc.