Electronic Mail (E-mail) & Electronic Records
Electronic mail created or received by University of Georgia employees in connection with official business is subject to the state record laws and the retention requirements of the Board of Regents. Just because such communication is transmitted digitally and easy to delete does not keep it from being an official record.
When electronic mail documents University business, a record copy should be printed on paper, filed appropriately for future access and preserved or destroyed according to the Regents’ retention policy. Given the vulnerability of electronic records, we suggest that this printing be done routinely, ideally upon receipt of a communication. In addition to preserving the communication, filing a paper print promotes future ease of retrieval and interpretation.
Electronic records bring new challenges to your role as a records manager. Even with careful storage, current magnetic and optical storage options cannot begin to match the life of properly stored acid-neutral paper or microfilm. This may not matter if the material has a short record life according to the retention schedules, provided the medium is carefully stored during its useful life, safe from potential destruction or deterioration. Preservation of the data, however, may not even matter if the machinery and software required to read it are not available in the future.
Just as the electronic record can be difficult to preserve, it can also be difficult to destroy when its retention schedule has been met. Simply hitting a delete key may not actually remove all trace of a record. Careful planning is needed to be certain that private information, such as that protected by FERPA, is not inadvertently released though inadequate protection or destruction of electronic records.
If contemplating a move from paper to electronic records, be certain that your electronic records can meet current standards for preservation, as well as security, privacy and any other legal requirements. Excellent guides that take into consideration legal, technical and planning issues are available on the Georgia Secretary of State's Records Management web site.
While we certainly are not technological experts, the UGA Records Management Program is always available to discuss electronic records issues.