Are You Sure You Want to Save That?

Are You Sure You Want to Save That?

At most companies, managing electronic records means backing up everything in case disaster strikes. But that can get you in trouble, too, if you don't know what you're saving and why.

Reader ROI

- Discover how electronic records management can save you money on legal bills.

- Find out how to build electronic record keeping in to your knowledge management system.

- Learn who in your company can help you manage the content in your digital files.

Think you have a good electronic records management strategy? Think again. Sure, you back up your data rigorously. You save everything you can, whether it's product specs or sales reports, in case the original files are damaged. But such practices, say electronic records experts, can be dangerous. To manage electronic files right, you need to take into account what's in those files and decide how long to save them.

Few companies have addressed this issue head-on. After all,"records systems" smacks of too much dreary library science to arouse immediate interest. But CIOs are finding two issues that are making them pay attention. First and foremost are lawsuits. The files on servers and backup tapes are a common source of legal angst and expense when they are subpoenaed by plaintiffs' lawyers. If such files aren't organised, discovery costs can reach millions of dollars. Second, companies are creating digital documents that need to be saved for many years. Current systems and file formats may not be around then, creating the need for long-term digital file storage. To knock off both concerns at once, forward-looking CIOs are installing electronic records management systems.

Human versions of such systems have been used for years at most companies to track paper documents. Corporate records managers - professional experts in organising and preserving company documents - help determine what files to keep, for how long, based on both legal requirements and any business need for them. By this plan, usually called a retention schedule, documents get filed according to predetermined categories Increasingly, CIOs - working with records managers as well as their corporate legal departments - are applying those processes to digital documents, most often as part of a document management or knowledge management system. Using electronic record-keeping software - a type of middleware - CIOs can turn databases of documents into legally defensible records management systems.

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