Tiered e-Archives for Patient Records and Electronic Mail
How long should an enterprise retain e-data? What's a smart policy on e-record destruction? Hear how East Carolina University answered the questions for e-mail, medical records and security videos.
The institution retains those three classes of data in a dedicated archival system (more than just normal production records and backup).
East Carolina retains e-mail of top school administrators seven years, then purges it. In my experience, seven years is the traditionally-recognized period for responsible retention of important financial records.
East Carolina elected to retain e-mail of faculty and staff for three years.
It archives security video (very voluminous) 30 days.
The university saves patient records until 20 years after patient's death.
To reduce costs, the university retains archives in tiers. Newer or higher-priority archives are in higher-performance "primary" storage, whereas older archives are relegated to slower storage, outside the network backup program.
On the topic of tiers, I’ll go one step further than what I read about East Carolina U. I envision another, even lower and less expensive tier, where archives are retained and organized but not accessible by fully-automated means.
From the perspective of e-discovery theory, a rationale for tiered storage is this: E-discovery law is most intolerant when records are destroyed too early. In the e-records world, too-early destruction is the most common type of "spoliation" or "obstruction of justice". E-discovery law is also intolerant (but maybe a bit less so) when a litigant possesses records, but she doesn’t know it and can’t find them.
Finally, e-discovery law seems to be more tolerant when a litigant possesses records, knows she possesses them, knows more or less where they are, but just can't get to them very easily. When this is the case in a lawsuit, a litigant is much less likely to be charged with spoliation. Instead, the plaintiff and defendant are prone to go before the judge and argue about the extent to which the dusty old e-archives are important and about who should pay for how much of the cost of retrieving them.
Mr. Wright is an advisor to Messaging Architects, thought leader in e-record archival.