In today's multi-channel cloud-storage environment, your sensitive documentation is everywhere. It’s in your inbox, your Google Drive, your company's Google Drive, Slack, and so on. You’re also getting inundated with all manner of files, coming at you from every direction.

As a result, the indexing, managing, retrieval, and purging of this information can be a consistent and arduous compliance task for you and those around you. A powerful organizational tool like Teamstand can help you streamline your essential document retention tasks and responsibilities.

You don’t have a choice when it comes to digital document retention. Your organization has to retain certain documents for legal liability and compliance reasons. For example, if there are questions about an employee’s legal immigration status, you ought to be able to produce the necessary documents. If you cannot, you could face serious legal issues.

You might also want to retain documents for business reasons. Contracts, analytical reports, correspondences, and similar documents are essential for handling daily tasks. You need them secured and organized by a well-designed strategy, or things can quickly get out of hand.

A document retention strategy should also include processes for getting rid of old documents. Keeping old files requires space and maintenance. But more importantly, old documents can expose your company to liability. For example, if old documents contain financial or sensitive personal information, losing them could result in serious damages.

What is a Digital Document Retention Policy?

Falling under the umbrella of a larger document retention policy, a digital document retention policy establishes a system for the creation, storage, and destruction of digital files. It should cover things like emails, purchase orders, contracts, tax documents, and company policies. A digital document retention policy may also include records that aren’t typically regarded as official documents, such as voicemails, social media posts, and meeting notes.

It’s important to remember that these documents are the lifeblood of your company. A good digital documentation policy doesn’t just keep your company compliant and minimize liability, it also helps you get stuff done. It's important to be able to find information when you need it and quickly share important files. This is where productivity apps like Teamstand can be a vital part of a digital documentation policy.

Typical Steps for Creating a Digital Document Retention Policy

Your digital document retention policy will depend on your particular industry. However, most policies are created using a similar process.

The first step toward building a document retention policy is to conduct an information audit. This initial step should catalog all of the existing records for your business, as well as where they are created, kept, and stored. Covering both digital documents and physical copies, your information audit will focus on company email platforms, the company intranet, mobile devices, mail rooms, filing cabinets, and more. Teamstand can be incredibly helpful in this initial step. In particular, the auto-generated filing feature allows you to quickly locate files by person, company, email thread, or even the app’s internal tagging system.

After your information audit, you should focus on categorizing all of the sources of information based on their type and business function. Some records may exist as multiple types, such as MS Word documents and paper files. The business function categories in your company probably include departments like human resources, sales, and accounting. Don’t overlook the fact that emails and their attachments are considered legal documents! Treating even innocuous emails like throwaway files can expose you to unnecessary liability.

After all of the documents your company handles have been identified and categorized, you can create rules for retention. The first priority for developing rules is following all legal requirements. International, federal, state, and local laws all have different requirements, which can include different retention periods. For example, some federal tax documents should be kept for 7 years, while payroll records may only need to be kept for 3 years. Your company’s legal team must play a critical role in developing rules related to legal requirements.

A digital document retention policy should also cover situations related to a legal or litigation hold. Unfortunately, it's common for companies to find themselves in a legal dispute. In certain legal situations, the court will order a company to halt the scheduled purging of all records related to the legal matter at hand.

How to Decide Whether to Purge Important Documents

At some point, you're going to have files sitting around that are no longer useful, and these no-longer-needed files to be purged. Purging reduces clutter, making it easier to find the latest important information.

Destroying records also helps to minimize unnecessary risk. If sensitive records like personal and financial information fall into the wrong hands, for example, it can lead to theft. Therefore, it is critical to purge these kinds of records when they are no longer needed. Additionally, there may be laws that require the destruction of documents after a retention open period has expired.

So how do you determine what to keep and what to get rid of? Your business likely has many different kinds of files and it might be confusing to figure out which files need to be kept and for how long. Speaking generally you should focus on the files that are the most sensitive or valuable, such as employee files, tax files, financial transactions, and property documents. Consult your legal and financial teams to figure out which specific documents need to be kept and for how long. Then, use Teamstand to pick out and preserve these sensitive files. The tagging system and multi-platform search function are well-suited to flagging and saving your most critical files.

A formal purging plan should lay out which documents should be destroyed, when they should be purged, who should perform the purge, and how it should be done. If you need to purge large volumes of digital records, you should take steps to make sure the deleted files can never be recovered.

There are certain situations in which you’ll want to hold documents indefinitely. For example, you should probably keep all legal contracts and correspondences, especially those related to legal action. Your company also has documents with historical or sentimental value. Whether it's for legal reasons, for the sake of history, or for long-term reference, the indefinite storage of your company documents should be described in your digital document retention plan.

Document Retention Policy Requirements Vary by Industry

Because your company’s plan will depend on your industry, you should resist the idea of following a template. Make sure your plan is based on compliance, legal liability, and business operations. For example, the length of time for document retention in some industries will be based on the statute of limitations in your state or country.

If you use cloud storage, you need to consider any relevant legal requirements related to data storage. Some international laws and court decisions have strict guidelines on where servers can or cannot be located. Teamstand provides the ability to bring up the context in which files are exchanged. In combination with a unified search function and auto-filing system, the app can help you track down files exchanged with people outside your jurisdiction for further investigation. 

Teamstand Simplifies Your Digital Document Retention 

There’s a lot of complexity and responsibility when it comes to retaining your documents. Teamstand's multi-platform search function, auto-generated file folders, and tagging functionality make digital indexing and digital document retention easier than ever. For example, you can use Teamstand’s auto-generated Company collections to quickly reference all of the files sent from specific businesses. 

Our app presents organized lists of important files in a collapsible panel within Google Workspace, bringing critical assets to where you’re already working. Like the best apps, it’s intuitive and simple. Contact us today to get early access to Teamstand’s automated digital filing finding cabinet.