Modern document retention should consider not only physical documents and storage problems, but electronic documents and legal needs as well. In today’s office environment, there are several standards that document retention programs need to meet. Documents need to be organized with a multi-level classification hierarchy, destroyed securely, and meet all federal, state, local, and industry regulations and laws.
The basic codes of modern document retention are:
1. Document Group and Series – A document group is a broad collection of related documents. Typically document groups are organized by department. Common document groups might include accounting and personnel.
2. Retention Rules – A retention rule defines when documents may become eligible for destruction.
3. Retention Schedule – A subsection of the retention policy. The retention schedule associates retention rules with document groups and/or document series.
4. Retention Policy – A formal record that creates standard policies controlling the retention and destruction of documents. The retention schedule is included in the retention policy.
5. Litigation Holds – A litigation hold prevents documents belonging to the document group and/or series to which it applies from being destroyed, and is typically enacted against a document group or series when the organization becomes aware that litigation may be eminent (or on receipt of a court order). Once a litigation hold is in place all destruction of affected documents instantly ceases until all litigation holds affecting the documents are removed.
6. Controlled Document Destruction – Ideally a document is destroyed shortly after the retention rules specify that it is eligible for destruction.