Small Business Policies for the Storage of E-Mail

Employee using email

This post is part of a series of posts entitled A Legal Guide to the Internet. For a comprehensive list of articles contained in this series, click here.

All businesses should establish a policy for the storage of e-mail. E-mail does not disappear once it has been deleted. E-mail messages are typically stored in the company’s backup system. Many casual yet potentially destructive messages sent over company networks and the Internet are stored in backup systems. If involved in litigation, discovery of computer data is available which includes the recovery of deleted e-mail messages and other information transmitted via the Internet or stored on a computer.

A company should establish procedures to control the distribution and deletion of e-mail. This will protect an organization from unexpected or inadvertent results in litigation.The following procedures should be considered:

  • backup copies of e-mail should be physically separated from backups of the rest of the computer system. This allows e-mails to be deleted after a short period of time
  • any e-mail which the sender wants to retain should either be printed in hard copy format or else stored in the main backup system of the computer
  • employees should be advised that e-mail will be deleted within a certain number of days
This and the following posts have been copied or adopted from A Legal Guide To The INTERNET – Sixth Edition, published through a collaborative effort by the Minnesota Department of Employment & Economic Development and Merchant & Gould.