Data retention, also called records retention, is the continued storage of an organization's data for compliance or business reasons.
An organization may retain data for several different reasons. One reason is to comply with state and federal regulations. Another is to provide the organization with the ability to recover business critical data in the event of a site-wide data loss, such as a fire or flood. Minimum records retention requirements regulations vary by state and by data type, but typically they range from three years to permanent.
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To ensure that all necessary data is stored properly, an organization's IT administrators can work with the organization's legal team and departmental business owners to create a data retention policy. Such a policy is simply a set of guidelines that describes which data will be archived and how long it will be kept. Establishing a policy can reduce the organization's storage costs by allowing documents that are no longer needed to be deleted or moving files that aren't accessed as frequently to a lower-level storage tier in an archive. A good data retention policy organizes documents so they can be searched and accessed when necessary.