When email first entered the scene, few took it as a serious business communication tool. At first, it was used as quick, informal exchanges and only grew over time to become one of the primary means of business communication and documentation. The same courts and regulators who once rejected emails as unsuitable for evidence now regularly accept them as official business documents. Because emails so often contain information which is vital to the e-discovery process, companies must begin proactively maintaining archival systems in order to preserve potentially sensitive information.
Why Email Is Different
Email has become a critical form of communication in the business world. Employees send and receive multiple emails on a daily basis, many of which provide trackable data that can be critical in the case of litigation. The way emails are stored is also becoming critical. Up until a few years ago, most emails were deleted without a second thought. Now, concerns over e-discovery compliance bring hesitation before hitting the delete key, and have given rise to a slew of email archiving systems.
The Importance of Compliance
According to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), destruction of documents carries a heavy punishment, up to 20 years serving time. Under the SOX definitions, deletion of pertinent emails can definitely count as destroying documents.
Deleting the wrong email can have massive consequences. If your company is involved in litigation, it’s likely that emails will form a major part of the e-discovery process. If electronic discovery begins and important emails turn up deleted, that may be interpreted as deliberate non-compliance.
Benefits of Archiving
Digital documentation, including emails, should be protected with the same care and caution as physical document. Solutions like an email archiving system provide an extra layer of protection between employees and the delete key. Similar to making photocopies of paper documentation, archiving emails increase insurance against the unexpected.
An archiving system for company emails also protect employees from outside sources of data corruption, such as hacking. Regardless of their own actions, archiving ensures that others are unable to tamper with emails, ensuring integrity of your email records. If, during the electronic discovery process, your record-keeping is called into question, an archive system that prevents employees and management from total deletion of emails sets those doubts to rest.
Deleting emails, even unintentionally, can have drastic consequences later on. This type of unanticipated impact can be mitigated by incorporating an email archiving system. There are defined standards for electronic data, and maintaining those standards is never more important than during the discovery process. An archiving system adds control to internal email systems, and also provides recordable evidence of compliance with e-discovery efforts.
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