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What Is Records Retention| Record Types & Retention Schedules

What Is Records Retention

Data storage and retention have emerged as one of the most penetrating IT fields. Secure information management, digital imaging, workflow automation, business process digitization or automation solutions, media management, and so on are some of the emerging areas where archival data plays a vital role.

Active record management systems are essential but at the same time, smart, meaningful, and timely information distribution is equally important.

The business of various industries such as financial services, healthcare, legal, manufacturing, and pharmaceutical industries depend on the data. The public sector organizations mostly use the data for business planning and decision-making.

There is an urgent need to understand why a records retention plan is important? What is the purpose of the records retention systems? How should you schedule a record retention plan? How record retention can lead to business growth?

Simply put, how record retention and management service can help you based on your specific requirements?

Here in this post, let’s get to know the detailed answers to these questions. Also, the simple and cost-effective solutions for records management and retention are discussed.

What Is Record Retention?

Records retention is a practice by which organizations maintain confidential records for set lengths of time. Actions like storing, managing, and disposing of are crucial as they have a direct impact on business.

Records retention is a necessary part of a business that helps in setting the rules, business strategies, regulations, and decisions to run a successful business.

Since the record retention process demands the security and confidentiality of data, the organizations have to pay attention to it. The digital copies of data are scanned and stored in private servers or on public or private clouds.

The system is driven by policies, scheduling, and infrastructure that enable administrators to comply with business best practices.

Retention policies help to manage many risks including lost or stolen information, the excessive backlog of paper files, loss of time and space.

Records Management and retention services comprise of a variety of services such as:

  • Auditing & Training
  • Physical Archiving
  • Electronic Archiving
  • Document Scanning and Digitization
  • Digital Imaging
  • Historical Record Storage

The process starts from analyzing documents to scanning and storing them in digital formats.

Why Record Retention Matters?

The records need proper storage procedures to ensure security and privacy. Improper storage can lead to data related issues. That’s why it is essential to build the data retention policy by building the rules and regulations.

Also, a destruction policy is a must to destroy the records when they are not needed. Outdated or purged records might cause several issues.

Space – If you maintain a large volume of records, having adequate space and an organized storage system is mandatory. If you are not maintaining a safe and secure storage space for your records, your organization is working in high risk zone and can have the consequences on your business.

Time – Record maintenance is a costly and time consuming task. It is vital to evaluate the time to maintain records . Time monitoring will help in implementing an effective record retention solution.

Legal Ramifications – As per the law, the organizations should securely store specific kinds of information. In addition, most confidential information requires records of purge and destruction dates for outdated records.You must ensure  the due diligence to protect personal and proprietary information with all precautions.

What Are the Qualities of a Record Retention Management System?

An effective records management program is an articulated set of Policies and Procedures that are reviewed and updated regularly.

There are six fundamental elements of a document retention solution:

  • Records Inventory & Classification
  • Retention scheduling
  • Records Storage & Conversion
  • Vital Records Program
  • Disaster Prevention & Recovery Planning
  • Disposition

Apart from these elements, a good retention program must have the following qualities:

Configurable security: Levels of access to specific documents or folders should be easy to manage by records administrators, to aid in security for clients.

Simple search and retrieval: Records retrieval must not take more time . The immediate access is always an advantage for businesses.

Centralized storage: Whether on-premises or in the cloud, records storage should be organized in an intuitive, easy-to-maintain digital repository.

Intuitive audit support: The organizations containing public information have to undergo the audit process. Therefore, you must opt for a record retrieval system that supports the auditing process.

Automated records management processes: The life-cycle of any type of records should be tracked and maintained with process automation technology built. It must result in seamless, transparent storage, classifying and archiving all records in an organization.

The best records management solution is one you don’t need to think about,” says Justin Pava, principal product manager of a renowned record management company. Further he says that when considering your records infrastructure, be sure to prioritize simplicity, ease of use, and reliability.

What Is Records Retention and Disposal Schedule?

Now let’s get to know, What is the purpose of the records retention schedule? A retention schedule is a list of the types of records created and received by an institution.

As we are aware that there are various types of records management & scanning such as healthcare records scanning, finance and accounting records scanning, legal document scanning, historical records scanning, educational records scanning, and customer records scanning. All have unique features and the importance of each one varies from one another.

Therefore a retention schedule list is prepared for each type of record storage that determines the retention time of each type of record.

Who Can Use the Retention Schedules?

All agencies can use the general schedules. All the other schedules can only be used by the specific agency or group of agencies. The  schedule is issued to or the agency responsible for the related function(s).

An agency may be permitted by QSA to use a schedule issued to another agency if the records they create relate to similar functions and activities and they have the same retention requirements. Requests to use a schedule issued to another agency must be submitted to QSA. 

Which Schedule to Use?

There may be multiple schedules issued to or available for use by your agency. You can use a combination of different retention and disposal schedules to sentence your records.

Some agencies may not have an agency core or sector schedule issued to them or available for their use. These agencies will only be able to use the GRDS, which may only cover some of their records.

Find out which schedule to use when sentencing records are covered by multiple schedules.

Types of Schedules

Retention Schedules are issued to a specific agency or group of agencies. The most common ones are:

General retention and disposal schedule (GRDS) and General retention and disposal schedule (Lite)—cover records common to most agencies or created by multiple agencies, such as administrative, transitory and short-term records.

Agency-specific / Core schedules—cover records unique to the functions and business activities of a certain agency.

Sector schedules—cover records of similar agencies that perform the same functions, such as local governments or universities.

All schedules are format-neutral, meaning they apply to all record types including digital unless otherwise specified (e.g. the schedule is only for digital records, record class is for paper records).

What Determines Retention Time For Records?

A document retention policy provides for the systematic review, retention and destruction of documents received or created in the course of business. A document retention policy will identify documents requirements- whether they need a long term storage or disposal.

What Documents Must Be Protected?

Temporary Records – All business records are treated as temporary records. The business data like , reminders, to-do lists, report, case study, and calculation drafts, interoffice correspondence regarding a client or business transaction, and running logs are temporary records.

Final Records – The business documents that are not superseded by modification or addition. Such include, but are not limited to: documents given (or sent via electronic form) to any third party not employed by Organization, or government agency; final memoranda and reports; correspondence; handwritten telephone memoranda not further transcribed; minutes; design/plan specifications; journal entries; cost estimates; etc. All accounting records shall be deemed final.

Permanent Records – Permanent records include all business documents. They define an organization’s scope of work, expressions of professional opinions, research and reference materials. Some of the examples are business contracts, proposals, materials referencing expert opinions, annual financial statements, federal tax returns, payroll registers, copyright registrations, patents, etc.

Accounting Records – Accounting records include: financial statements; ledgers; audit records; invoices and expense records; federal, state, and property tax returns; payroll; accounting procedures; gross receipts; customer records; purchases; etc.

Workplace Records – Workplace records include, but are not limited to Articles of Incorporation, bylaws, meeting minutes, deeds and titles, leases, policy statements, contracts and agreements, patents and trademark records, etc.

Employment, Employee, and Payroll Records – Employment records include, resumes, and letters of recommendation of persons not hired; etc. Unless otherwise specified in the DRS, such records should be retained for the minimum of one year.

Bank Records – Bank records include, check copies; stop payment orders; bank statements; check signature authorizations; bank reconciliations; etc.

Legal Records – Legal records include, contracts, legal records, statements, and correspondence, trademark and copyright registrations, patents, personal injury records and statements, press releases, public findings, etc.

Historical Records – Historical records are those that are no longer of use to Organization, but by virtue of their age or research value may be of historical interest or significance to Organization. Today’s organization using the historical data digitizing service to secure historical data.

How Long to Retain Data?

Most of the organization have issues in managing huge records. The best way is to have an automated system to indicate inactive records.

A records management program must ensure that legally required documents are kept for at least the minimum prescribed time periods. But, are there circumstances under which they should be kept for a longer period of time?

In this case, there are two situations:

  • First, there may be records you think are critical to preserving historical continuity, for example, minutes of strategic planning meetings or of policy development sessions.
  • The second reason is litigation or governmental investigations and enforcement actions.

If the records do not fall into any of these categories, the organizations must consider a disposal or destruction plan.

Why to Have Data Retention Policies?

The importance of creating and implementing a Document Retention Policy becomes more complicated, but extremely important in order to protect against cases of future litigation.

A document retention policy provides for the systematic review, retention and destruction of documents received or created in the course of business.

The policy will identify documents that need to be maintained and contain guidelines for how long certain documents should be kept and how they should be destroyed.

The policy is also helpful to:

  • provide a system for complying with document retention laws;
  • ensure that valuable documents are available when needed;
  • save money, space and time;
  • protect against allegations of selective document destruction; and
  • provide for the routine destruction of non-business, superfluous and outdated documents.

Why Do You Need to Track the Retention Schedule?

Although a professional can help you better with the creation of a retention policy, a standard template enables you to get started. Here are the records you must include in your policy.

  • Must Keep: These are the files that you must always have in the organization for legal or business reasons. For instance, they include contracts, documents related to a lawsuit, and supplier correspondence.
  • Want to Keep: These records are retained because of the administrative and business value they bring to the organization. Although they don’t serve a legal purpose, you might need them for decision-making and reviewing past performance.
  • Destroy: Finally, if you don’t need a certain file or document, it should be destroyed. Set guidelines to determine when a record is eligible for destruction and who can authorize its deletion.

Reasons for Having a Document Retention Policy

Since you know the importance of record retention, your organization must work on finalizing a retention policy for the following reasons:

  • Cost-effective
  • Supports Decision-Making
  • Compliance
  • Access Control
  • Protection of Documents
  • Easy to Locate
  • Decluttering

How to Choose the Best Record Retention Services?

Many record management and retention agencies are providing similar types of services. So, it becomes difficult to choose the right agency. Ultimately, a successful partner in taming your record and information retention schedules must:

  • Offer a cost-saving and error-free solution with the right combination of technical and RIM expertise.
  • Understand your business requirements and choose the best record retention policy for your firm.

While you are in a process of taking estimations from the professional record management companies, ask these questions to choose the best agency;

Q:  Is the Retention Policy Good Enough for Business Growth?

Look for the agency that suggests the most advanced solutions to make your better record retention policy the best. Can they provide virtual storage? Do they scan and digitize sensitive data like historical, health, and financial.

If you are doing a specific business for example a financial solution provider then ask: What is the retention period for financial records? Similarly; What is the retention period for payroll records?

Q: How Can Your Agency Help in Developing an Automated Record Retention System?

The legal laws for record retention keep changing. Also, new technical tools and software solutions for better record retention are introduced. The company which you are considering must have the updated knowledge.

You can ask queries like: What is the HiPPA Privacy Rule requirement for the retention of health records? or What laws deal with records retention? or What does total retention time mean for electronic records?

Based on the answers given by the agency, you can choose the best partner.

Q: How Does the Agency Ensure Compliance With Federal, State and Industry Regulations?

The retention schedule is according to the regulations. The team handling the task must provide specific time based solutions.

Many organizations struggle mightily to keep up with ever-shifting regulations and rely on their private organizations to make sure they stay in compliance. You must choose a  records retention partner that has the dedication, and the resources necessary to keep abreast of changing compliance requirements and to incorporate them.

Q: How Do You Protect Records for Future Purposes?

Checking the security measure taken by the service provider is a must as the records carry the sensitive information. Make sure that any prospective partner vets all of the employees that will handle your records. From pickup/delivery drivers to workers at storage facilities. All facilities must be secure.

Ask a would-be partner the following questions and listen carefully to the answers. Knowing what to ask and what you should hear is key to selecting the firm with which you’ll form a great long-term relationship.

You must remember that your retention partner is integral to your overall information security and risk management program. The best relationships bloom when both partners are clear about their needs and expectations.

At eRecordsUSA, we believe in providing a satisfactory retention policy to manage records. Also we understand the varied requirements of information management solutions. One design can not fit all kinds of records. Based on the fact, we develop a unique records retention schedule to maintain a long term record retention solution.

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