Life Cycle of Electronic Records

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While the Digital Age creates less paper, electronic storage demand grows. Guidelines established by an organization's information management team to create, access, store and eventually destroy records dictate the terms of the electronic records life cycle. The life cycle of electronic records includes creation, use, storage and disposition for most business and government entities. Some organizations archive certain records deemed invaluable, as the last phase of the life cycle when they aren't destroyed.

Creation

  • One of the biggest challenges for any electronic management system is to document the origination of new records in a logical and consistent manner for future use, retrieval and storage. What constitutes a record is established by the organization's policy manual which is written with federal and state statutes in mind. If correctly identified at the beginning of the life cycle, a record is easily accessible until the record's usefulness expires and it is destroyed. Depending on the organization, some records are created automatically by the system when certain data is entered into the computer. Other systems require an individual to create a record manually.

Use

  • Once a record is created electronically, it is normally distributed and used as an information tool for business or governmental purposes. For this reason, records are stored in a repository for easy access. While active, most records are warehoused, but accessed through a database with identifying information that labels the record.

Storage and Maintenance

  • After a file has been used and is no longer needed regularly, a record is often stored as inactive. Records must be stored for access prior to being destroyed according to the rules stated as organizational policy. Part of the reason for such emphasis on proper storage relates to privacy issues. Prudent organizational policy addresses security as a major part of responsible record maintenance.

Disposition

  • Records must be accessible for a certain number of years to comply with federal and state laws. Most organizational policy about record retention and disposition use federal and state statutes as minimum requirements for record retention. Businesses keep records for litigation purposes, in case they are forced to defend certain business actions taken in the past. How records are disposed of is of critical importance. Since electronic files can be restored in expert hands, it is critical that electronic files be erased with no possible way to retrieve the information.

References

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