Posted: Sep 29, 2014

Learn about the importance of electronics records and some tips on how to maintain your own records.

What is Electronic Records Day?

E-records Day is a day to raise awareness among government agencies, related professional organizations, the general public and other stakeholders about the crucial role electronic records play in our world.

Why does it matter?

With the increasing reliance on information technology, the challenge to manage, preserve, and provide access to digital records and information continues to grow. Managing electronic records is an urgent issue!

Electronic records are subject to changes in software and hardware that can leave them virtually inaccessible after just a few years, if not monitored.

Electronic records require proactive management. The best time to plan for electronic records preservation is at the time records are created, rather than when software is being replaced or a project is ending.

Electronic records should be evaluated according to their information content, not their format, and be subject to the same retention schedules and public records requirements as physical records.

Paper records stored in good conditions can be read centuries afterwards; electronic records, however, can become unreadable very quickly, without proper management and care.

Top tips for government agencies working with electronic records

  • Consult your records retention schedule:  Know what retention periods have been approved and take appropriate actions (e.g. transfer to the State Archives, destroy, etc.) when the retention period for your records has been met.
  • Plan ahead in ERM system design: Talk to an archivist, records manager, and other stakeholders; determine the possibilities for system adherence to retention and disposition guidelines.
  • You’ve got to have standards: Ensure you have a trusted system and that your records are authentic.
  • Organization is key: Who’s in charge of the shared file? Are people using email as a filing cabinet rather than a communication tool? Which copy is the record copy?
  • Make the rules: Naming conventions, file organization, and disposition strategies all help now and in the long term. Make the rules known and follow them.
  • Do you have backup? Does your backup system work? How well will it actually restore your e-records? Can you retrieve individual items? Consider off-site storage.
  • Understand metadata: It’s data about your data (and helps your records live long and prosper).
  • Keep the content, context, and structure: How can you keep all three of these characteristics viable for your records? Hint: metadata helps!
  • Do you have built-in strategies? Can you migrate your e-records? Transfer them to the archives?
  • Does delete mean delete? E-records proliferate easily. Do you have a plan to manage deletion of all copies that should be deleted? E-discovery will include all files.
  • Think before you scan: Standards, worthiness, naming conventions, storage, and retrieval (among other things) should be considered before you turn that scanner on for the most efficient and useful results.

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