13 September 2021

Factors to Consider Before Creating an Email Retention Policy


The creation of a good email marketing policy should be carried out with an Email Retention Policy or ERP and following the 5 important aspects exposed by Damian Alderson


Whether you are a large enterprise or a fresh startup, email retention policy should be among your critical data protection tasks.

It is highly recommended that an organization has a valid and up-to-date email retention policy in place. The legal landscape in the current age of information and digital transformation is a rather dynamic one, and with somewhat frequent shifts in-laws and the regulatory ecosystem, you are required to enable regular documentation oversight and thorough compliance.  

An Email Retention Policy (or ERP) accounts for the internal process of establishing how long your emails should be kept safely in your archive before being automatically deleted.

The policy should encompass clear guidelines about how long certain email messages are to be kept, as well as when and how these emails should be removed - which is why Email Archiving and Email Retention Policy are two terms that are often used interchangeably. However, the former is more about the technical solution for storing and archiving messages, while the latter involves legal guidelines about the regulatory timeframes recommended or required for email preservation (and tends to vary depending on the industry). 

Here are 5 major things to take into account before creating your ERP


Email Retention Policy 2Source: Freepik


Figure Out Which Emails are Referred to as ‘Records’

In order to create an optimized email retention policy for the requirements of your company, you need to be certain which email messages are deemed as “records” in your industry and/or niche. Try finding as accurate an answer as possible to the following questions:

Which emails and documentation constitute a record?

Which record types do you need to list and categorize? 

How long does your organization require retention of each record type and why? 

How accessible do your emails have to be and over which period of time?

In which form should your documents be stored?  

After all these aspects have been established, it is likely that a considerable portion of your emails are not required to be kept at all. 


Learn About Legal/Regulatory Requirements for Your Industry

One of the vital aspects of coming up with a proper email retention policy is knowing the laws and regulations your business is required to comply with. These will act as your main guidelines and should govern your organization’s activities and help you determine appropriate retention periods for your emails and other documentation. 

This is highly critical as all provisions exercise nasty sanctions and penalties for non-compliant acts, while the reputation of your business is also at stake here. Depending on the size and the industry of your company, the reputation-based damage can be even more devastating than the penalty one.  

State laws and legal retention requirements are detrimental to your retention strategy, along with internal business considerations that dictate legal retention needs. Some best practice tips state that retaining critical documents and communication channels for at least 7 years is a good strategy, but these depend heavily on the industry your business belongs to, as well as unique circumstances around your particular company.


Potential for Cost Optimization 

Even though your organization has an option to store data and potentially sensitive legal documents forever, it is good practice to find an optimal solution in terms of cost optimization. Various email archiving and data storage solutions offer numerous tier options with regard to accessibility and timeframe of keeping your data securely stored. 



Automating email record retention policies is a strategy a vast number of businesses opt for. It is recommended that you impose best practice rules in terms of categorization, management and removal of emails and sensitive data, especially if you allow your employees to accumulate data in an unrestricted and unlimited manner. Though most companies automated built-in mailbox size features in terms of storage limits, it is a better idea to implement email retention automation through a third party email archiving solutions program. That way, you can put all your email retention and archiving tasks on auto-pilot and devore your time and effort to more productive and lucrative projects. 


Proper Implementation

Regardless of the size of your company, smart implementation of your email retention policy is just as crucial as the process of its creation. Here are some key ERP implementation tips:

Exclude all the frills and keep it simple - It is best for your email retention policy to be as straightforward and easy-to-comply as possible so as not to create further unnecessary issues.  

Write every little detail down - By putting everything in writing, you make it available and accessible to all the team members

Have it reviewed by professionals - Always be sure to double-check your policy with your HR department, legal counselors as well as you employees so it is aligned with both compliance requirements and your business goals and technical strategies.


Final Thoughts 

Not only does incorporating a valid, optimized and properly tweaked email retention policy solves all your legal requirements for this type of communication-based data, it can also help you reduce storage costs. And despite the fact that approximately 97% of large to medium sized companies based in North America do have a policy regarding email retention and archiving, only the third of them have done a detailed and thorough enough job creating and implementing one. Make sure you are in those 30%. 

Copyright © The Impact Lawyers. All rights reserved. This information or any part of it may not be copied or disseminated in any way or by any means or downloaded or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of The Impact Lawyers. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of The Impact Lawyers.

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