Data can be as much of a problem as it is a benefit. Developing a comprehensive data management plan for your organization can help you avoid risk while harnessing the insights and efficiencies available to you through proper analysis and use of your data.
Data retention is the process by which a business decides when it is the appropriate time to delete any given piece of information. Some data, such as corporate bylaws and legal documents, may need to be retained indefinitely. However, other data may need to be removed from business systems sooner for reasons of cost containment, limitation of liability and maintaining sane operations for your business.
Avoiding “data clutter” can be just as important as maintaining a comprehensive data set. Your business needs to consider this fact carefully when implementing a data retention policy.
Developing a proper data retention plan starts with an inventory of your corporate data sets, followed by defining appropriate categories for that data based on the earliest appropriate time that the data can be deleted. This process is a lengthy one and can often be seen as overly bureaucratic, but don’t be discouraged! Proper data management will prove to be a benefit in the long term both legally and operationally.
The purpose of data backups is to prevent failures in your data retention plan. Commonly a data backup will be used to:
There is a common misconception that your data backup plan is also your data retention plan. This approach is not accurate and can lead to some very negative unintended consequences for your business.
Many times, when asked to define their data retention plan an Office Manager, IT Manager or Business Owner will respond that “we take backups every night.” Sometimes they even tout extended retention of backup data for many years.
An improperly aligned data backup plan, which keeps backup data sets on extended retention for long periods of time, can increase your liability and cost in the event of a legal discovery action against your business. Even if you have deleted a record, if it still exists in your backup data sets, it is discoverable.
Moreover, if you do not define when it is the appropriate time to delete a document and carry out that policy accurately, you can be subject to fines and other legal penalties. You never want your business to be accused of holding a “shred party” prior to a legal action. You need to protect your business and reputation with an appropriate, well considered and fully implemented data retention plan.
Be careful! It is important to know that your longest RPO is also your shortest data retention period.
Defining a Data Retention and Data Backup Plan is not an easy nor trivial task for most businesses. However, it is an important step to take as you continue to grow your business and structure for the future.