Records Retention Compliance When to Hold ‘Em, When to Fold ‘Em
Records Retention Compliance When to Hold ‘Em, When to Fold ‘Em is extremely important. When it comes to your vital records, knowing when to get rid of them is almost as important as knowing when to create them— it helps you keep costs low, inventory manageable and compliance breach risk limited (as limited as it can be, anyway). Records Retention is largely a function of compliance.“You Gotta Know When to Hold ‘Em, Know When to Fold ‘Em…” – Kenny Rogers, “The Gambler (Song),” and Records Retention, in a Nutshell
Some records you have to keep—the law requires it, or you need the information until further notice or forever. For most of our customers, the small part of their historical data they actually need to keep is stored within software programs like their accounting and billing system, or their CRM (Customer Relationship Management) program—what they keep and how long they keep it outside of their other business systems is almost entirely driven by compliance requirements.
So the easiest answer to “When do I need to hold ‘em?” is “When the law says so (or if you really, REALLY need them).” If you’re not sure what the law requires you to keep and for how long, I recommend you seek professional advice from someone who does—your attorney or the agency that enforces your industry’s compliance requirements are two good places to start. If your records manager has in-depth knowledge, they may also be able to share what other firms in your industry do, but since you are ultimately responsible, it’s always best to get advice and recommendations straight from the source.
Know When to Fold ‘Em
How do you know when to “fold ‘em” (destroy your records)?
The easiest answer here is, not surprisingly, “When the law says so (or you really don’t need them anymore).”
When it’s finally time to send your records packing, you have a decision to make. Do you want to:
- Save the data by scanning the records and preserving the information digitally before they’re destroyed?
- Save the data in aggregate (summary) form, and lose the granular details when the records are destroyed?
- Destroy the records and lose the data forever?
The best choice varies by industry and by company, so there is no “one answer fits all”– just remember that you are just as responsible for the confidentiality of digital data as you are for data contained in hard copies of records, so plan accordingly. Compliance with records retention will be specific to your industry, circumstance, management guidance, and internal or external counsel.
Also keep in mind you need your data to be as secure during the process of destruction and afterward as it was when it was still being actively stored, so make sure whoever you work with ensures data destruction that is total, certain and DOCUMENTED so your compliance requirements will be satisfied. Having no records retention policy or schedule is in my view much worse than having one that contains flaws, or is miss-executed. Not following the law (employment law for example) can cause liability or legal action.
Records Rentention Compliance Know When to Get Help
If you’re in over your head when it comes to your records, or just need some suggestions about what to “hold” and when to “fold,” including insider tips about how others in your industry or related industries handle records retention, please visit our website and/or call me! I can’t share confidential information, but I’m happy to share ideas, resources and tips that might help you, including information about our services if they would be appropriate for your situation.
If you need some guidance on Records Retention Compliance please fill out the form to the right or call 334-396-5430.