Email and Electronic Records

Page last updated 02/05/20

Email as a record

Email is convenient, difficult, frustrating, efficient and inefficient, exasperating, overwhelming, and a necessity for most people and organizations. It's not easy to manage email as an authentic, reliable record without appropriate policies, technology, and training.

A lot of email - perhaps 80% - is transitory, has a short useful life, and can be routinely deleted by individual users, as authorized by the University System of Georgia (USG) Board of Regents (BOR) records retention schedule, "Transitory Correspondence" (0472-01-16).

For the other 20% that is not transitory, the email message and its attachments should not remain in the email system, but should be saved and filed in a fixed format (such as PDF) and managed as any other type of record for access, retention, and disposition.

Electronic records and record keeping systems

Electronic records can be born-digital, made digital by scanning, or created through manual input or automated data capture. In most cases, the electronic record is considered the go-to, authoritative version.

Paper copies, forms, and printouts of the electronic record can be retained for a period of time (say, a year) for quality assurance, verification of input, and backup. After they have served their purpose, the paper documents can be classified for disposition as "Transitory Records" (0472-01-017) and discarded in a recycle bin or, if they contain confidential or sensitive information, in a secure shred console.

Electronic records may be stored as structured data, as in a database or data warehouse. They may be stored in a semi-structured environment, such as email, or a completely unstructured environment, such as folders on network share drives.

The same principles of records management apply to both paper and electronic records, regardless of the system. They need to be managed for access, retention, and disposition; to be maintained as trustworthy repositories; and to be audited for compliance with documented policies and procedures.

As with other computer systems, electronic record keeping systems are managed by IT professionals. Nevertheless, data stewards and trustees are ultimately responsible for complying with the USG data lifecycle management policy. See Section 12.3.5 of the "USG Business Procedures Manual."

Who are data stewards and trustees?

The following definitions are from Section 12.2.1 of the "USG Business Procedures Manual."

  • Data trustees - USG executives who have overall responsibility for the data read, created, collected, reported, updated or deleted in their data area(s).
  • Data stewards - designated personnel responsible for the data read, used, created, collected, reported, updated or deleted, and the technology used to do so if applicable, in their data area(s).