With records retention, it's better to be consistently wrong

It's better to be consistently wrong than constantly inconsistent

It is not often that being wrong is OK, but when it comes to implementing records retention policies, it is better to be consistently wrong than constantly inconsistent.

As companies establish records retention policies that define how long they need to keep certain data, they are confronted with a bigger problem: How do they create policies for laws to which they are subject but of which they have no knowledge?

Companies know of laws passed by agencies like the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission or federal laws like the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and they are taking steps to adhere to them. It is when little known agencies such as the state of Ohio's Division of Unclaimed Funds come calling to enforce their laws that companies can find themselves in a bind.

In Ohio, as in most states, the Division of Unclaimed Funds is responsible for the collection and reporting of unclaimed funds. Ohio's Department of Commerce Web site claims that more than 200,000 individuals in Ohio annually lose track of funds that include unclaimed utility deposits, wages or commissions.

The key for businesses to satisfy these regulators is to take time early on to define and put in place records retentions policies and then stick to them. Frank Albi, president of Business Information Solutions Inc., finds that his clients who put policies in place and adhere to them are better off. Even if they misinterpret existing laws and create the wrong policy that destroy requested data, he is unaware of any of them being held liable the first time an infraction occurs as long as they change their policies going forward.

No one likes to be wrong, especially when it comes to data management. But when it comes to creating records retention policies, the only wrong decision companies can make is not to put them in place.

Jerome Wendt is the president and lead analyst with DCIG Inc. He may be reached at jerome.wendt@att.net.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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