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Purpose

To provide a practical set of resources that will assist members of the higher education community in addressing related issues of electronic records management, e-discovery, and data retention on their own campuses.  

Introduction

We all create and use information every day. Taking care of that information (in all its many forms) is an effort requiring shared responsibility by each member of a specific community. Just figuring out where to start and what needs to be done can be a time-consuming task.

Some institutions have done a lot of work in this area, while others have just gotten started, and still others have done little or nothing. We all have an opportunity to learn from and share with each other. This set of resources is intended to be a collaborative and evolving effort. Please use this forum to share what you have done! It might be just what someone else is looking for. If you have questions or comments regarding this toolkit, or if you'd like to contribute your own material, please contact the Higher Education Information Security Council.

This toolkit will provide valuable information on the following areas:

Background/Context

Interest in records and information management (RIM) continues to increase among university & college leadership due to new compliance regulations and statutes. The growing number of corporate scandals and government incidents involving questionable or deficient records management practices have raised general awareness of and created a critical interest in records compliance, retention period requirements, litigation preparedness, data security & privacy, and many other records and information management issues.

Records management is often seen as an unnecessary or low priority administrative task that can be performed at the lowest levels within an organization. However, this perception is changing as these publicized events have demonstrated that records management is in fact the responsibility of all individuals within an organization.

Electronic Records Management

The general principles of records and information management apply to records in any media, form and format. However, the complex attributes of electronic records (also called digital records) present specific issues that records stored in paper and microfilm do not typically share. For example, it is more difficult to ensure that the content, context and structure of electronic records is preserved and protected.

Several concepts are critical when addressing Electronic Records Management. A simple way to think about it is to imagine all information existing within a lifecycle. From the moment of creation until the time it is no longer needed, information should be managed with care according to a variety of factors, including sensitivity, confidentiality, and desired longevity.  

Information Life Cycle Graphic

Lifecycle

Within the information lifecycle, information may take different forms over time. Records are one type of information. Electronic records are those records that have been created or stored using electronic systems.

Records may be grouped into classes according to a variety of factors. Common factors include, but are not limited to, record type, sensitivity, confidentiality, and desired longevity.

Based on those classifications, records can then be scheduled according to their required or desired retention periods, and their recommended method of disposition. In addition, certain classes of records may only be appropriate for access by certain members of a community. Almost all records are subject to discovery. 

The entire process by which an organization creates, classifies, controls, and authorizes access to electronic records is known as Electronic Records Management.

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