Principle of Availability

    An organization shall maintain its information in a manner that ensures timely, efficient, and accurate retrieval of its information.

    Successful and responsible organizations must have the ability to identify, locate, and retrieve the records and related information required to support its ongoing business activities. These records are used by:

    • Individuals and groups to reference, share, and support their work
    • Legal and compliance for discovery and regulatory review purposes
    • Numerous corporate functions to validate management decisions and account for the resources of the organization.

    Having the right information available at the right time depends upon an organization’s ability to nimbly search through enormous volumes of information.

    As more routine business transactions are being conducted exclusively in electronic environments like e-mail, shared local area network drives, collaboration spaces, and websites, this is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain. These electronic environments offer a high degree of individual flexibility in how employees organize the materials they collect on a daily basis. However, this same flexibility results in expensive, time-consuming, and labor-intensive difficulties when specific pieces of electronic information are needed for business or regulatory purposes, months and years after they were originally created. These difficulties are further complicated if the records required are those of employees who have left the organization or of vendors who previously provided records custody for the organization.

    Pinpointing complete and accurate information depends on 1) having an efficient and intuitive set of methods and tools to organize the records of the organization and 2) providing employees and agents with sufficient training to utilize these tools successfully. Information must be described during the capture, maintenance, and storage processes in such a way as to make retrieval effective and efficient. A routine approach to capturing descriptive information about the records (known as “metadata”) must be documented and utilized in all records systems.

    An added complication with electronic information is that even when the media on which it is recorded is available, its accessibility on that media can be uncertain due to its inherent fragility and impermanence. Electronic information needs to be routinely backed up to ensure that it can be restored if there is a disaster, a system malfunctions, or the data becomes corrupted. It also needs to be constantly migrated to currently supported hardware and software to sustain its ongoing accessibility.

    To effectively manage the availability of its information assets at a reasonable cost, an organization should in the normal course of business regularly remove obsolete or redundant records and related information from its information systems. This will not only make those remaining records, which have ongoing value to the organization, more identifiable and accessible, but it will also enhance system performance and reduce the maintenance costs of storage, back up, and migration. However, removing unneeded information should occur in adherence with the organization’s records retention policies, which should also provide for suspending disposition in the event of pending or ongoing litigation or audit.

    An organization’s personnel are more likely to retrieve and use information for better decision making and more effective work if it has well-designed storage processes and access to understandable, retrievable, relevant, and consistent information. With properly structured information, personal productivity is improved, storage costs are minimized, and the reliability and speed of retrieval are optimized. Further, complete and accessible records in a well-managed environment minimize inconsistent and erroneous interpretation of the facts, simplify legal processes and regulatory investigations, and protect valuable information from being lost, corrupted, or stolen.

     

    © 2017, ARMA International