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How to Build a Data Retention Practice

When crafting a data retention policy, it is essential to recognize that each organization has distinct requirements such as based on where you operate, where you collect revenue, or what industry you operate in. There are several universally recognized best practices on developing an organization data retention policy, these are suggestions to help you get started.

Assemble an Expert Team
Establishing a comprehensive retention policy demands collaboration from various internal departments, including legal, finance, and accounting. If in-house expertise is limited, consider engaging consultants or contractors. Ensure the team includes professionals well-versed in data retention standards and practices.
Determine Essential Data
Begin by cataloging all organizational data, understanding what is crucial to retain. This entails considering both industry-specific regulations and your operational needs. Sometimes, business imperatives might necessitate longer retention than legal mandates.
Distinguish Data Types
Not all data carries the same value. Refrain from adopting a one-size-fits-all retention policy. Instead, define specific categories of data and assign tailored retention durations to each.
Prioritize Data Protection
Embed robust protective measures within the policy to thwart breaches and unauthorized access. This can include encryption, physical safeguards, and data loss prevention tools. Prevention is always more cost-effective than post-breach remediation.
Incorporate Mobile Device Protocols
In our "bring your own device" era, it is imperative to account for data on personal devices. Solutions like remote data wiping can be instrumental when these devices are misplaced.
Monitor User Activity
Utilize tools to observe user interactions with data, facilitating detection of suspicious behaviors and ensuring policy adherence. For instance, if an individual attempts to access soon-to-be purged data, these systems can intervene and alert administrators.
Plan for Legal Holds
If litigation arises, organizations should have mechanisms to pause automatic data deletions, preserving subpoenaed information.
Oversee Third-party Vendors
Extend your policy's reach to vendors accessing your data. Contractual agreements should clearly define their data protection responsibilities, coupled with regular compliance monitoring.
Draft Two Policy Versions
For organizations under regulatory scrutiny, it is beneficial to have a detailed, legally-compliant version of the policy and a simplified internal version to ensure broader understanding across stakeholders.
Educate the Workforce
It is crucial that every staff member understands the policy, especially those frequently interacting with data. They should be familiar with retention durations, access protocols, and purging procedures.
Annual Policy Review
Regularly revisit and update the policy to stay abreast of evolving regulations and technological advancements, ensuring its continual relevance and efficacy.

Remember, a robust data retention policy not only ensures compliance but also fortifies the organization against potential threats and liabilities.