Email archiving, disposition, and preservation

Email archiving, disposition, and preservation

Email archiving is the way emails have been stored for decades. Traditional email archiving solutions store emails in compressed files to take up less room in the user’s account, but archiving can make it difficult to find an errant email. This archiving approach also assumes no one other than the owner needs to access those emails. Those email archives can linger for ages, often until the user deletes them or leaves the organization. Email archiving solves some of the email retention challenges, but not all of them.

What is email disposition?

Before an email can be retained, it must be identified as something worth keeping. In an email context, disposition is the sorting of emails into “retain” and “do not retain” categories. Many different criteria can be used to determine which emails get retained and which get deleted, depending on the industry, organizational department, and customer relationships. (More information on the types of emails that should be retained is covered in Why should some emails be retained?)

Email that has already been dispositioned and selected for retention must also have a date set for the length of time it is to be retained and whether or not it is archived at that point or completely destroyed.

What is email preservation?

Preservation may seem like the same thing as retention but, when it comes to email, there is a meaningful difference. In paper format, preservation is not just putting papers in a box, but storing that box where it won’t get damp, or too hot, lost in a basement, stolen, or vandalized. Email preservation is about storing email so it cannot be changed or altered, lost or destroyed.

Email preservation comes into play when email is being retained for a legal purpose, usually related to discovery. In the United States, the

Federal Rules of Evidence apply to both civil and criminal proceedings and ensure evidence has been properly preserved and hasn’t been tampered with, lost, degraded, or disposed of... including emails.

Other countries—not to mention individual U.S. states—may have their own local variations, which underlines the importance of having a legal review of the organization’s requirements for all the applicable jurisdictions where business is conducted.

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