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Industry standards for data retention

After reading Bill Oliver's answer to the question, "What are the average industry standards for the length of time data/tape are stored off site? Do we keep a quarter, a month, etc. I understand it's different based on your business but just as a general guideline...," I would like to know WHERE online may I find posted individual state and/or federal regulations for data retention.

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Unfortunately, I have to concur with Mr. Oliver. One of the major challenges many backup and storage administrators face on a regular basis is the absence of an organized and central repository for this type of information. A simple Web search using the words "federal data retention guidelines" shows numerous choices among which for example, a 139-page document called "Records Management Guidelines for Law Enforcement Agencies" ... for the state of Washington alone!

There are acts, laws, rules, policies and guidelines. Some are regulated at the federal or state government level or per agencies; others are SEC driven for example. To make matters worse, some rules dictate when you CAN dispose of data and others, when you MUST dispose of data (privacy).

The problem remains that there is no "one-stop shopping" for this type of information. The only way to narrow down your search is by focusing on the type of business your organization is in and the type of data you are enquiring about. There are books available on the subject but you must make sure you consult one that was written recently as things change fast. Many find it useful to seek legal counsel when they are concerned about the legal requirements and particular nature of the data that they want to store (or delete).

This was first published in March 2005

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