What Is Records Retention: Why It Is A Must For Organizations

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Written By Haisam Abdel Malak
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In today’s digital world, records retention has become more important than ever. The volume of information that businesses generate and store is growing exponentially, making it increasingly challenging to manage and protect critical data.

Records retention refers to methods and practices organizations use to maintain important information for a required period of time for administrative, financial, legal, and historical purposes. Effective records retention practices can also help organizations reduce costs associated.

Organizations need to develop robust records retention policies and procedures to ensure that they retain the right information for the required amount of time, while also safeguarding their data from unauthorized access or misuse.

Retaining records has two main purposes: legal documentation and disaster recovery. As for the legal documentation, it is usually needed for lawsuits or litigation. Disaster recovery is needed when an organization’s data center gets damaged or destroyed.

Implementing a records retention schedule can save an organization up to 25% on storage costs.

What is Records Retention Period?

The retention period is the amount of time that an organization should keep records. It is based on factors such as the organization’s legal obligations, risk management, and the type of business.

There are many reasons why organizations have a records retention period. The most important reason is to make sure that they are complying with regulations and laws. For example, an organization might be required by law to keep information for six years. This is so that it can be accessed if necessary in a lawsuit or investigation.

Business Records Retention Schedule

The retention schedule, also called the data retention schedule, is the core foundation of an effective records management initiative. The purpose is to define how different types of records are managed.

In addition to how long they should be kept to comply with different laws and regulations requirements.

It is a guide that categorizes the many kinds of documents you have and how long they must be kept. It is based on an analysis of all of the legislation and laws that regulate the document in your legal jurisdiction, as well as any business rules that apply.

A well-established and routinely updated general document retention schedule is crucial. A company-wide management strategy will eliminate fines and penalties by ensuring full compliance with laws and regulations.

Records retention schedules are frequently included as part of a data retention policy, which is an established methodology for storing information depending on business needs.

record retention schedule

The Importance of Records Retention Schedule

The retention of documents is an essential part of records lifecycle management. Not all records should be maintained and the cost of managing and maintaining them would have a significant effect on the budget and would necessitate more storage space.

Records retention is important because it helps organizations save storage and operating expenses when dealing with paper records, reduce litigation risks by adhering to various rules and regulations, and increase record security by preventing unauthorized access.

While it is necessary to clean away clutter, throwing the incorrect paper or deleting a crucial e-mail might have negative implications. In litigation, not having a document might make the difference between winning and losing.

By having a general document retention schedule for all business units, businesses can

  • Reduce Storage & Operational Cost: Maintaining an enormous number of records requires time, money, and labor. A properly executed policy will help to save money on physical storage by controlling the growth of data volume. Also, it will help improve accessibility & reachability.
  • Reduce Litigation Risks: Keeping information for more than it is legally stated or destroying documents that should be available for a definite time will surely expose your business to different types of fines, penalties, or other legal consequences.
  • Improved Security: Protecting information that is critical to business operations is extremely important. It will minimize data leakage and make sure information is available if need be.

What are Record Retention Policies?

Records retention policies are used to set a time frame for proper records management. This is especially important for companies that have data storage and archiving needs.

A records retention policy is a legal requirement for every organization and should be used as a guide for the organization to know how long to keep their records. This can be done by keeping records that are related to the organization’s operations, financial transactions, and legal matters.

It is also an important document in the event that an audit occurs. Records that are no longer needed should be disposed of properly through methods like shredding or burning them.

Records retention policies are important because they provide companies with an overview of what they have stored and how long they have kept it. It also helps them identify if there is any need to archive or dispose of any old files because it can help them avoid legal trouble down the road.

Usually, document retention policies should answer these questions:

  • Retaining Records: Which records should be kept (taxes, legal documents, Accounting, payroll, etc.)
  • Records Disposal Schedule: How long should they be kept (months, years, trash/shred/destroy)
  • Document Form: In which form the documents should be retained (paper, digital, etc.)
  • Where To Store: Warehouses, physical cabinets, digital system.

An effective record retention policy will also minimize litigation threats and discovery costs, as well as the time it takes to recover from actual cases. Document destruction in compliance with a fair corporate record retention program will assist in protecting the company from legal risks.

Document Retention Policy Best Practices

The best retention policy for your organization will depend on many factors, including the type of organization, the nature of its business, the size of its operations, and the legal and regulatory environment in which it operates.

However, there are some general best practices that all organizations should follow when developing and implementing their retention policies.

1. Define the types of records you need to retain

The first step in developing a retention policy is to identify the types of records your organization needs to keep. This will vary depending on the nature of your business, but some common types of records that should be included are financial records, personnel records, customer records, and legal documents.

2. Determine how long you need to keep each type of record

Once you have identified the types of records you need to retain, you need to determine how long you need to keep each type of record. The length of time will vary depending on the type of record and the legal or regulatory requirements that apply to it.

For example, financial records typically need to be kept for seven years, while personnel records need to be kept for at least three years.

3. Develop a policy for retaining records

After determining how long you need to keep each type of record and the location of those records, you can develop a retention policy which is part of a companywide RM policy. For example, you might decide it is necessary to maintain general business records for a period of six years and personnel records for a period of five years

When you have to retain the information which factors should be considered for retention period

There are many factors to consider when determining how long data should be retained for, such as compliance requirements, organizational needs and the legal ramifications of not keeping certain data for a certain amount of time.

The following factors should be considered:

  • Data’s business value
  • Regulatory requirements
  • Data management needs
  • Data access controls
  • Data sensitivity level
  • Organization’s data governance framework

The Importance Of Automating Records Retention

Depending on industry regulations and business rules, organizations must have a flexible system to configure the retention period based on a predefined schedule.

Good records avoid audit findings and, perhaps, damages in a lawsuit; so, critical documents should be available and easily accessible when required.

Having a system to automatically manage the destruction of records will help in

  1. Reduced Human Errors: When we automate human processes, the business operations will run more effectively and with less error-prone. In case of retention & disposition, automating the destruction of records based on the schedule defined will make sure that no expired information retain.
  2. Increased Employees Productivity: Less manual & repetitive tasks will help your employees focus on more crucial projects. That will surely improve their morals & increasing office efficiency.
  3. Improved Compliance: Using a system to automate the destruction of electronic records will surely improve compliance with different regulations requirements. Companies need to verify that only information that needs to be retained is available.


Every organization should have a well-defined and routinely updated records retention policy. That is extremely essential to be fully compliant with different laws and regulations which will result in cost reduction and increased employee productivity.

A record retention program is essential for a variety of reasons and can help you avoid lawsuits while also ensuring compliance with federal and state rules and regulations.

How long must records be kept?

The Federal Records Act of 1950 states that organizations need to maintain their records for a minimum of 3 years from the date they were created or received. In addition to this law, there are also many state-specific laws which govern how long records must be stored. For example, in California, records must be stored for 7 years after they are created or received while in Texas they have to be stored for 10 years after creation or receipt.

What records must be kept for 10 years?

The records that must be kept for 10 years are the medical records and the prescription information. The medical records must contain all of the patient’s health information and must be kept in a confidential manner. The prescription information contains all of the medication prescribed to the patient, which is also confidential.

What is the retention policy?

A record retention policy is a document that establishes the length of time records must be retained. The purpose of this document is to ensure that records are kept for a sufficient period of time to meet legal requirements, state regulations, and company policies.

4 thoughts on “What Is Records Retention: Why It Is A Must For Organizations”

  1. I like your Article. I was involved in Local Government Retention, Disposal and Preservation for 17 years. I really enjoyed my job. Thank you for posting this article to show how important Records Retention is for any organisation.

  2. Great article, I’ve seen so many companies breach regulations like HIPAA and GDPR due to the fact that their email retention is inadequate.


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