E-Discovery Document Retention – How Long is Long Enough?

Email Retention Management

“Companies should retain emails and documents in a central repository for more than seven years before considering deleting the information!” This is the opinion of experts in resolving IT disputes.

Organisations should consider retaining the information for longer than seven years in order to be able to appropriately respond to FOI, or e-discovery, requests stemming from disputes arising in the UK.

When companies or individuals sue each other they have the right to ask for relevant documents from the other party in a process called discovery. When the documents are digital ones, such as emails the process is called e-discovery.

Companies who fail to store information for long enough can end up incurring significant costs in trying to recover backed-up files in order to comply with e-discovery obligations.

In terms of retaining documents and having a policy which complies with the requirements of limitation periods, seven years is the typical period for contract claims, but some projects might take years to complete. The preference, particularly for IT companies, should be implementing a policy that begins years after the completion of the project or from a point at which it is a bit clearer that no claims have been made.

Organisations that operate across the world, for example manufacturing companies, need to consider that retention and disclosure requirements might be different in other jurisdictions, with the disclosure requirements in the Netherlands, which appear to be broader in many circumstances and have a retention period of 10 years in comparison to those in the UK, as an example. Obviously requires a policy that complies with all countries and not just the country of origin.

The costs of disclosure, retrieving and restoring of emails must also be taken into account, as access to documents from backups is a major issue where organisations have a really short retention period, this in turn adds to a massive rise in the costs of undertaking an eDiscovery investigation and restoring from back-ups, especially where those backups are stored on tapes and not on servers.