Records Manual: Electronic Records & E-Mail
What is an electronic record?
Electronic records are informational or data files that are created and stored in digitized form through the use of computers and applications software. Electronic records are always machine dependent formats; readable only with the assistance of digital processors.
Electronic records may be stored on a variety of magnetic and optical storage devices. The format of an electronic document does not change the fact that it is a record in the legal and practical sense and must be treated as a public document. Your office Records Retention Schedule should address the retention and disposal of all records created by your office whether in paper or electronic format.
What is E-Mail?
Electronic mail (e-mail) consists of any memo, letter, note, report, or communication between individuals and groups that is stored and/or transmitted in a format that requires an electronic device to capture and access. E-mail is perhaps the most common electronic record format found in most offices on campus. Electronic mail systems are designed to automate office communications. Most important messages that perform a directive (policy and procedural) nature should be either printed and filed or saved to a disk or drive. The vast majority of e-mail, however, is transitory and exists only in electronic form.
How should I maintain my e-mail and how long should it be kept?
At BGSU, recommended guidelines for the management of e-mail include the following:
- When sending electronic correspondence in an official capacity, retain a copy either by printing and filing a hard copy or by filing in an electronic folder designated "official".
- If you choose to print e-mail, make certain all headers and attachments are included.
- When answering mail through BGSU Webmail or a website, cc: yourself.
- While foldering personal email separately from official email may be a good practice, it will not prevent it from being considered a public record. Documents created using University-owned hardware or software may be considered a public record. This could include email to and from off-campus computers using your BGSU webmail account.
- Other e-mail that does not meet the definition of a public record may be deleted as soon as it is no longer of administrative value.
- E-mail messages of administrative, fiscal, and/or legal value, dealing with policy issues, should be retained and archived in accordance with the Schedule of Records Retention.