In order to address growing eDiscovery, compliance and knowledge management
requirements, organizations must retain a greater number of emails than ever before. Yet
with such a large percentage of internal and external business communications performed
via email, this is becoming an increasingly difficult task — one with which many struggle to
keep pace. What’s more, as the volumes of messages requiring retention grow, so too, do
the related storage, retrieval and administrative costs. To address these challenges — and
prepare for litigation and compliance reviews — enterprises need a standardized, policy-
based email retention system that ensures all relevant messages are stored safely and in
accordance with any pertinent industry laws and governing bodies.
Building a well-planned, enterprise-wide email retention policy helps establish uniform and
consistent rules for all email and electronic records. Such a policy outlines email content,
sets retention and deletion criteria and provides the flexibility to accommodate litigation
holds and enable role-based user access. Leveraging a robust Information Governance
solution also helps simplify the management of this process. The ideal solution should
automate retention policy enforcement and task documentation, while providing an
archiving and retrieval engine that streamlines an organization’s ability to locate messages
for audits, litigation and eDiscovery in a timely and cost-effective manner.
Using an automated Information Governance solution as the authority to manage an email
retention policy enables organizations to meet eDiscovery, compliance and knowledge
management requirements, while improving email system performance and reducing costs.
Specifically, organizations can:
• Reduce eDiscovery costs
• Improve regulatory compliance
• Reduce the risk of sanctions
• Improve IT performance without increasing costs
• Enhance data access
WHITE PAPER: 10 STEPS TO EFFECTIVE EMAIL RETENTION 1
SECTION 1: CHALLENGE
The Need to Better Manage Email Retention Policies
Faced with increasing regulatory scrutiny and tougher laws surrounding electronic content,
organizations of all sizes — in every type of industry — must pay closer attention than ever
before to the way they manage, store and archive email messages. As rich sources of business-
critical intellectual property, electronic records must be protected by strong retention policies
that identify which emails need preserving and for what duration. Moreover, such a policy
must also include guidelines that enable the safe, timely removal of messages from production
systems and assist organizations in deleting them upon the expiration of the retention lifecycle.
However, in an age dominated by electronic business communication, developing robust,
effective retention guidelines for email volumes that proliferate at an exponential rate often
results in increased storage costs, poor system performance and difficulties locating specific
archived messages. Despite these considerable challenges, email retention policies comprise
a key piece of an enterprise-wide Information Governance framework, and as such, must be
implemented in order for organizations to achieve the three important capabilities of:
• Litigation readiness
• Regulatory compliance
• Knowledge management
Today, litigation readiness is the biggest force driving the development of comprehensive email
retention policies. With the passage of the December 2006 amendments to the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure (FRCP) — which list emails, instant messages, text messages, Microsoft
Word documents, spreadsheets and other electronic assets among the business records that
can be used as evidence — organizations are now legally obliged to possess formal eDiscovery
processes that make all relevant electronic documents available for assessment and analysis
early in the litigation process.
With this new regulation, enterprises need to know all of their sources of electronic information
in advance of litigation, including email servers and backup tapes, deleted or retired records
and data stored at remote locations. Gaining visibility into the sources of data is crucial, as it
helps organizations quickly institute litigation holds that mitigate the potential for intentional
or negligent alteration or destruction of any electronic records — known as spoliation in legal
proceedings — which can result in significant penalties and jeopardize the outcome of the case.
Attempting to comply with these FRCP amendments and drive litigation readiness without an
effective Information Governance system often results in high operating costs and an increased
risk of penalties. In fact, according to a study by Cohasset Associates, American businesses
annually spend between $2.5 million and $4 million on eDiscovery for every billion dollars
in sales, making it a large uncontrolled expense that is exceeded only by the costs of
healthcare1. Moreover, organizations that fail to meet FRCP rules can face sanctions for
the illegal destruction or alteration of evidence, or even risk losing cases they would have
otherwise won or favorably settled.
2 WHITE PAPER: 10 STEPS TO EFFECTIVE EMAIL RETENTION
Meanwhile, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority
(FINRA), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and other regulatory
mandates include strict guidelines about the preservation of electronic assets. In other words,
these exacting criteria make email retention a key factor in achieving compliance. While the
specific data subject to retention varies by authority, most require that all records directly
pertaining to an organization’s business activity, including emails and other messages,
be held for a predetermined amount of time. Exceptions to these regulations include
spam and personal emails, though the latter can be requested during an investigation
under certain circumstances.
An organization’s email records often contain valuable, proprietary information that is vital to
the success and ongoing competitiveness of the business. Thus, retaining these messages
and providing users with quick access to the information contained within can help to drive
productivity and business innovation.
Balancing Retention With Costs and Performance
With email stores growing at an annual rate of 35 percent, keeping emails in online archives
means that businesses must invest in additional physical storage space and hardware capable
of maintaining performance under increased processing loads2. To combat the rising costs
associated with email retention — while continuing to meet performance demands in
production systems and comply with all legal and regulatory requirements — organizations
need a way to identify non-essential messages that can be sent to offline storage or deleted.
Managing Retention Through Policies and Automation
However, because they lack the formalized policies that dictate which emails must be saved,
which are not immediately essential to business needs and which can be deleted, many
organizations struggle to make email retention a cost-effective core competency. In fact,
in a study by the Osterman group, 53 percent of respondents said they lack such a policy3.
What’s more, many of the world’s largest corporate messaging applications provide few
resources to support compliance and retention operations. And without the right tools,
organizations must manually search through individual inboxes and scour backup tapes to
locate a specific email or attachment. At the same time, many outsourced backup companies
charge a fee every time they are asked to locate and deliver archived messages — a process
that can get quite costly as greater numbers of emails are requested.
To achieve this crucial balance between costs and retention, organizations need to develop
a carefully planned email retention policy and support it with a robust, comprehensive
Information Governance solution. Leveraging technology to enable such a policy will ensure
that all retention methodologies, responsibilities, procedures and timeframes are applied to
each message and enforced on a consistent and uniform basis. In doing so, organizations
improve their ability to demonstrate conformance to legal and regulatory initiatives, become
well prepared for litigation and eDiscovery and increase cost efficiencies across the board.
1 “Information Governance: A Core Requirement for the Global Enterprise,” Cohasset Associates, October 2007.
2 “Reducing the Load on Email Servers,” Osterman Research, September 2007.
3 “Email Archiving Practices Survey of IT professionals,” Osterman Research, December 2007.
WHITE PAPER: 10 STEPS TO EFFECTIVE EMAIL RETENTION 3
SECTION 2: OPPORTUNITY
Developing and Implementing an Email Retention Policy
To make email management procedures a cost-effective business asset, enterprises need to
develop, actively enforce and audit comprehensive retention guidelines. These rules should
specify consistent, enterprise-wide data archive windows and define permissions for who can
access, change or delete messages, attachments and other records.
To this end, organizations should guide themselves through the process of developing,
implementing, monitoring and auditing a comprehensive email retention policy using the
following 10 steps:
1. Define an email retention policy
2. Eliminate the variables hindering centralization
3. Educate employees about the retention policy
4. Incorporate relevant regulations into the retention policy
5. Identify roles with unique retention requirements
6. Balance retention guidelines and related IT costs
7. Provide employees with access to archived messages
8. Ensure that retention policies can accommodate legal holds
9. Validate that all messages are archived
10. Use technology to enforce retention policies
Define an Email Policy
In order to fully understand its retention obligations, an organization must first have a
clear understanding of the types of content it transmits electronically. To provide this insight,
the email retention policy should specify:
DOCUMENT TYPES employees can send via email, as well as the specific files, such as sensitive
business contracts, that must be transmitted using a different method.
CONTENT GUIDELINES defining what should or should not go into emails, including policies
around what constitutes sexual harassment or other unacceptable language.
ENFORCEMENT MEASURES and best practices that automatically scan for policy violations
and designate an internal authority to periodically review content.
4 WHITE PAPER: 10 STEPS TO EFFECTIVE EMAIL RETENTION
Eliminate the Variables Hindering Centralization
Without formal archiving guidelines and an automated system to manage the process,
employees often save old messages and attachments on local storage systems, such as a
PC hard drive. This lack of standardization makes tracking and protecting archived messages
problematic. For example, a judge can request messages saved on personal archives during
litigation and eDiscovery. But if an employee saves these on a hard drive, which then fails, the
information is lost and the enterprise becomes vulnerable to legal and regulatory penalties
around the spoliation of data.
Moreover, locating the necessary data on all local hard drives throughout a large organization
is a difficult, time-consuming and expensive process that often fails to discover every message
saved on a non-standardized source. To avoid the possibility that a missing message results in
legal sanctions, email retention policies should include specific, centralized archiving methods
that prohibit employees from saving messages in personal folders.
Educate Employees About the Retention Policy
Even though a formal email retention policy may be defined and in place, many employees may
remain unaware that such guidelines exist. To ensure that archiving rules are followed across
the enterprise, all employees must be trained on the policy and able to demonstrate that they
understand content and storage procedures, as well as any rules restricting the use of personal
folders. Moreover, education should:
• Detail the reasons why these rules are in place,
• Offer instructions for using any supporting archiving technology
• Outline the consequences of non compliance at both a business and personal level
Incorporate Relevant Regulations Into the Retention Policy
It is critical that all email retention policies incorporate the requirements of the mandates
governing the industry in which an organization operates. There are many common regulations
SOX regulations apply to public companies across all industries and impose severe penalties
on any business that deliberately alters or deletes documents in order to defraud customers or
other third parties. To comply with SOX guidelines, companies must retain auditable emails for
a minimum of five years from the end of their last fiscal years.
FINRA rules demand that financial services firms establish formal, written policies and
procedures that detail their email retention policies. After outlining these policies, a business
must then demonstrate that all retention processes are in full compliance with FINRA
HIPAA regulations apply to any email message or other electronic records that contain
sensitive information about an individual’s medical history. The preservation period for a
medical record is a minimum of five years, though some related statutes dictate that certain
information be retained for the life of the patient.
WHITE PAPER: 10 STEPS TO EFFECTIVE EMAIL RETENTION 5
Although many regulations exist beyond the three listed above, all regulatory bodies —
regardless of industry specificity — make meeting the following requirements a key aspect
DATA PERMANENCE, where data must be in its original state without being altered or deleted.
DATA SECURITY, where all retained information must be protected against security threats,
including access by unauthorized persons and any outside forces that could physically damage
or endanger the availability of archived messages.
AVAILABILITY, where organizations must prove that all emails subject to the retention policy
can be easily accessed by authorized personnel in a timely manner.
Identify Roles With Unique Retention Requirements
Specific organizational roles have unique archiving requirements, which must be captured
in the larger retention policy. For example, brokers at financial services firms are obligated
to keep all of their electronic correspondence for up to six years. Likewise, in pharmaceutical
companies, scientists or physicians who perform drug tests must keep test-related
emails on hand for even longer, as these may contain highly sensitive information that can
be requested as evidence in eDiscovery. Finally, it is common practice in most enterprises to
save the emails of CEOs indefinitely, even after their tenures have ended.
Balance Retention Guidelines and Related IT Costs
Though there are many specific legal and regulatory guidelines around email retention, no
court or compliance authority demands the archiving of every email ever sent or received.
As a result, organizations should implement a retention policy that reduces the storage
burden by ensuring that the emails essential to meeting compliance and litigation guidelines
are saved, while those that are not needed are deleted. By reducing storage through retention
and deletion policies in line with legal and compliance mandates, IT can limit storage-related
expenditures and streamline email administration tasks, which often comprise more than
40 percent of total IT support costs. In addition, this approach limits the amount of content
requiring evaluation during the legal review phase of eDiscovery, further reducing costs.
Provide Employees With Access to Archived Messages
As enterprises establish overarching policies for archiving and deleting email messages,
they must also verify that all employees have access to the electronic assets they need to carry
out their business responsibilities. To support productivity, policies should establish rules that
enable certain messages to be saved for personal communication, while allowing all other
messages to be managed by the default retention strategy. These rules should also allow users
to search for all archived email in both production and off-line storage systems, and in some
cases, enable employees in similar roles to access messages owned by their coworkers.
6 WHITE PAPER: 10 STEPS TO EFFECTIVE EMAIL RETENTION
Ensure That Retention Policies Can Accommodate Legal Holds
Email retention policies must be flexible enough to be suspended if a legal hold is necessary.
For example, if an organization is anticipating legal action, it might choose to retain all emails
in order to preserve the information that may be used as evidence during litigation. It is critical
that policies accommodate legal holds, because courts can impose sanctions for the spoliation
of any messaging content or electronic records that are relevant to a legal proceeding.
Validate That all Messages Are Archived
In order to comply with eDiscovery and litigation mandates, businesses must confirm and
demonstrate that all emails are captured and subject to the retention policy. To support this
critical goal — and eliminate the possibility that information escapes retention —
organizations should leverage an Information Governance solution with functionality that
provides the live, real-time capture of every message that falls under the rules of the
Use Technology to Enforce Retention Policies
To achieve the goals outlined in its email retention policy, an organization should implement
a robust, automated Information Governance solution capable of enforcing policy guidelines
across the business in an efficient, effective manner. Such a solution is the key to improving
legal hold management, speeding retention processes and maintaining an archive that
preserves necessary messages and purges non-essential emails as necessary. Information
Governance solutions should help simplify access to archived messages through rules to grant
permission by business classification, protect messages as corporate assets and make them
available to employees within similar roles.
Specifically, the optimal Information Governance solution should include:
• Granular retention capabilities that allow organizations to keep individual emails according
to specific criteria
• Automatic email archiving that enables end users to access messages in a saved state
• Folders that streamline the storage and retrieval of important messages
• The ability to secure sensitive private information, such as social security numbers and
medical records, to support HIPAA compliance
• Capabilities for eDiscovery, including the classification and search of emails and other
• Legal hold support that earmarks the specific emails that have been identified as evidence
in litigation procedures
WHITE PAPER: 10 STEPS TO EFFECTIVE EMAIL RETENTION 7
SECTION 3: BENEFITS
Improving Email Management Policies Through Technology
Enterprises that utilize an automated Information Governance solution to implement and
manage a comprehensive email retention policy are better prepared to meet eDiscovery,
compliance and knowledge management requirements — and promote more cost-effective
email system performance and administrative activities.
Specifically, Information Governance technology helps organizations develop and maintain
email retention policies that:
Reduce eDiscovery Costs
By helping to establish a granular email retention policy, an Information Governance solution
gives organizations instant access to the messages needed to meet specific regulatory, legal
and eDiscovery requirements — and decreases the time and costs associated with manually
searching archives, as well as the time spent in review, the most expensive phase of
Improve Regulatory Compliance
Information Governance solutions help organizations verify that their retention policies address
the requirements of industry regulations, greatly improving opportunities to comply with such
initiatives as SOX, FINRA and HIPAA.
Reduce the Risk of Sanctions
By implementing and documenting uniform, consistent retention policies, Information
Governance solutions help organizations preserve records that may be used in court
proceedings and reduce the risk of sanctions for the illegal destruction or alteration
Improve IT Performance Without Increasing Costs
An Information Governance solution provides organizations with the ability to develop a
streamlined, cost-effective message archive that automates retention and disposition and
leverages existing IT assets — reducing the need to add new servers, storage systems and
Enhance Data Access
With policy-based functionality that verifies that data is retained according to business
classification, protected as a corporate asset and made available to employees with common
roles and user profiles, an Information Governance solution helps to improve data access
across the organization.
8 WHITE PAPER: 10 STEPS TO EFFECTIVE EMAIL RETENTION
Given the heightened emphasis placed on the preservation and security of electronic assets,
organizations across all industries are under increasing pressure to develop and implement a
robust, comprehensive email retention policy that complies with various legal and regulatory
bodies. Bolstering such a policy with an automated Information Governance solution enables
enterprises to more efficiently and cost-effectively store and locate emails for eDiscovery,
litigation, compliance and knowledge management purposes. In doing so, they are able to
optimize their message archival and deletion processes, while simultaneously:
• Improving system performance
• Strengthening data availability
• Reducing maintenance costs
• Minimizing the risk of legal penalties or sanctions
“Information Governance: A Core Requirement for the Global Enterprise,”
Cohasset Associates, October 2007.
“Reducing the Load on Email Servers,”
Osterman Research, September 2007.
“Email Archiving Practices Survey of IT Professionals,”
Osterman Research, December 2007.
About the Author
Eric Lundgren Eric Lundgren is Vice President of Technical Sales for the Information Governance Business
INFORMATION GOVERNANCE Unit at CA. He has a deep background in email management, eDiscovery and records
management. Currently, Eric is responsible for helping customers understand how they
can better address the legal, regulatory and operational challenges posed by diverse sources
of information, including email and electronic and physical records. Prior to working for CA,
Eric was Vice President of Product Strategy and Technical Sales for iLumin Software, a leading
email management, supervision and discovery software vendor.
WHITE PAPER: 10 STEPS TO EFFECTIVE EMAIL RETENTION 9
CA (NSD: CA), one of the world’s leading independent,
enterprise management software companies, unifies and
simplifies complex information technology (IT) management
across the enterprise for greater business results. With our
Enterprise IT Management vision, solutions and expertise,
we help customers effectively govern, manage and secure IT.