The purpose of these guidelines is to provide departments and offices with guidance on the responsible management of University electronic records that align and support the Institutional Records Policy. These guidelines, in accordance with other established University policies and procedures, apply to all electronic records, regardless of their digital form, created or received by an office or department of the University in transaction of its proper business or in pursuance of its legal obligations.
A number of new technologies create electronic records, and the record creation can be both active (e.g., adding data to a database) or passive (e.g., automated logging of system updates). Individual records may be created in electronic mail systems, as web-based publications, and as documents created and stored in administrative information systems.
* Adapted from Records Policy and Procedures Manual (http://bentley.umich.edu/uarphome/manual/index.php), University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library, University Archives and Records Program.
There is a rapidly increasing volume of information which exists in digital form. Considerable opportunities are offered by digital technology to provide rapid and efficient access to information, but there is a very real threat that the digital materials will be created in such a way that not even their short-term viability can be assured, much less the prospect that future generations will also have access to them.
Practical experience in this area is still emerging. Much of the dialog on and research in digital preservation has focused, properly, on the difficult technical problems involved in packaging and otherwise managing digital material in ways that it can survive the passage of time and changing computational environments. But, as the digital world has increasingly come to realize over the years, technical solutions are only one aspect of the whole solution. Addressing the many issues surrounding digital preservation is of particular concern as we consider the needs of records management.
The University has developed a well-researched and thoughtful approach to managing institutional records, and has prepared a policy, guidelines, and best practices for a comprehensive records management program. While the University policy provides the highest level of authority on all records management, there are additional protections, safeguards, and preservations associated with digital records. Adherence to the guidelines provides many benefits that include:
For the purposes of these guidelines, a digital record is defined as electronic information in any form created or received and maintained by an organization or person in the transaction of University business or the conduct of affairs and kept as evidence of such activity.
Electronic records should be reliably and securely maintained:
Electronic records should be retained or disposed of in accordance with authorized and approved records retention schedules:
Work processes and associated business procedures and tools should support the creation and management of electronic records:
Electronic records should be inviolate and secure:
Electronic records should be preserved without loss of any vital information for as long as required by law and policy:
Electronic records should be accessible and retrievable in a timely manner throughout their retention period:
Access to electronic records should be controlled according to well-defined criteria (see: Computing Accounts Management Policy). Recordkeeping systems should ensure that electronic records are protected from unauthorized access:
Electronic records should be organized and stored appropriately so that they can be accessed in a timely manner.
In other words, electronic records are to be managed by the same principles and procedures that govern paper records.
File naming conventions and file structures allow for electronic records to be eye legible. Most electronic records created by Brown employees are unstructured information that are typically text heavy like word processing documents, presentations, email messages, web pages, and PDFs. Large quantities of unstructured information becomes hard to locate and search without taking an active role in naming convention and structure.
There is no one size fits all approach for naming a electronic records and it is recommended that a naming convention and file structure be adapted on a division or department level. This allows for multiple users to all have the same knowledge on where to find a file and what a file is, based on the name.
File naming conventions and file structures should be unique, in line with business practices, human eye scannable, naturally ordered, consistent, and let you know what the file contains. Other things to consider:
File Naming Conventions
The goal when designing a file naming convention is to make it obvious to the user what the file contains. Information to consider including in a file name:
A few examples of file names with a naming convention applied:
These are suggestions, use whatever identifiers work best for your department or agency’s business processes and be consistent.
A file structure is a hierarchy of folders that organize files into groups that support an individual, department or even a division’s business practices. There are two editable metadata fields in a file structure: folders (which are repeatable) and the file name. Without proper organization of a file structure it becomes very difficult to find a file. Like a file naming convention, there is no one right way to develop a file structure. Folders can be organized by many different identifiers:
Below is an example of a file structure that uses the following folder hierarchy:
Department/Type of Record/ Year/Subset of a Type of Record/Project/File Name
When developing a file structure, the first step should be to evaluate all of the files and create a structure that the files logically fit in rather than making the files fit the structure. This will allow for faster recall of the files. Create the entire folder hierarchy with empty folders before adding any files to the structure then you can start moving the files from their old location to the new file structure. It will quickly become clear if the file structure is meeting the needs of the files, if not, new folders will need to be created.
Many consider electronic mail a distinct category of records that should be handled differently from other records created in the office. However, electronic mail is essentially a mode of transmission for messages or information and effectively it is the same thing as sending a memo or a letter in "hard copy." It is a widely used communication system and as we become more comfortable with the technology it is being used to facilitate a wide range of business activities. As such, electronic mail can be an official record of the University. One of the most difficult aspects of the current electronic mail systems is that the systems are not designed as recordkeeping systems. This means that management of electronic mail is not part of the system design, rather e-mail needs to be managed by understanding what types of records are created using e-mail communication systems. Just as with "traditional" paper records, a good place to start in the management of electronic mail is to develop guidelines on how electronic mail records should be classified, retained, and stored.
Below is an outline of some of the guidelines that should be considered in the overall management of e-mail:
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