NARA Implements New Plan for Preserving E-mail

    Sep 30, 2013

    The U.S. National Archive and Records Administration (NARA) is offering agencies a new, more simplified and automated approach to managing e-mail.

    The new Capstone approach allows an agency to categorize and schedule e-mail based on the work and/or position of the e-mail account owner. For example, the agency could determine that records from the accounts of officials at or near the top of an agency should be preserved as permanent. All other e-mail accounts could then be considered temporary and preserved for a set period of time based on the agency’s need. 

    Advantages of using the Capstone approach include:

    • Reduced reliance on print-and-file, click-and-file, drag-and-drop, or other user-dependent policies
    • Optimized access to records in response to discovery or Freedom of Information Act requests
    • A practical approach to managing legacy e-mail accounts
    • Reduced risk of unauthorized destruction of e-mail records
    • Leveraging technologies used for other purposes (e.g., e-mail archives used for e-discovery)

    The bulletin also identifies a number of risks and considerations that an agency should assess in determining whether to follow the Capstone approach. These include:

    • Establishing criteria for selection of appropriate Capstone accounts
    • Identifying and meeting other records management responsibilities
    • Determining the impact of incidental collection of personal and other non-record e-mail
    • Determining whether end users may delete non-record, transitory, or personal e-mail from their accounts 

    Answers to all of these considerations will depend on agency technology and policy requirements.

    Large organizations dealing with large quantities of e-mail records may want to consider a similar approach in their organizations. If your organization is interested, additional information can be found in the August 29 bulletin from NARA. 

    Another resource of interest would be ARMA International’s newest publication on e-mail: E-Mail Retention and Archiving: Issues and Guidance for Compliance and Discovery, which is available in the ARMA bookstore.

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