Data Retention Policies, Privacy Laws and Regulations: Best Practices Unpacked
8 mins read

Data Retention Policies, Privacy Laws and Regulations: Best Practices Unpacked

Data retention impacts your ability to comply with laws and the accessibility and performance of your data.

Your data retention policies define what data you need to retain or archive—and for how long—to meet business and compliance requirements. But in addition to addressing these requirements, these policies also contribute to improved data security, optimization of production systems, and reduced IT costs. Establishing a thorough data retention plan is an enterprise data management best practice.

Where Do You Start?

Formulating a successful data retention policy is not a trivial task. It’s essential to recognize that there is no blanket plan. Organizations will likely have more than one data retention policy to accommodate different departments’ specific needs. Any plan you set in place also requires participation from all key stakeholders—IT, business, governance, and compliance teams.

A well-defined data retention policy should aim to answer a few key questions:

  • Why must you retain data?
  • What data should you retain?
  • How long should you retain the data?
  • How frequently is the data accessed?
  • Who needs to access this data?
  • How quickly do they need access to the data?
  • When the time comes, how do you dispose of it?

At the outset, it is also important to understand that there are upfront costs to running a data retention program. But a well-defined data retention strategy and technology solution can help reduce overall IT costs—while meeting business and legal requirements.

What Are the Consequences of Not Having a Data Retention Policy?

As mentioned, data retention policies are important for a range of reasons. But their express purpose is to ensure adherence to regulatory and compliance requirements—which may vary depending on your industry and location.

Failure to have a retention policy can expose your organization to hefty fines. These fines affect business internationally, and they’re becoming stricter. And if you operate in a highly regulated industry like finance or healthcare, chances are you face even tighter legal restrictions around data retention policies.

For example, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires healthcare organizations to retain data for at least six years from the creation date. Federal requirements for HR records also require the retention of certain hiring and payment information, among other data. Similarly, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) requires companies that process bank cards to report transaction data. And the International Regulatory Framework for Banks (Basel III) calls on banks to keep up to seven years of data.

But remember, a data retention policy isn’t just for regulatory compliance—it also helps keep your data accessible for long durations securely and cost-effectively.

Data Rentention
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The Rising Influence of Data Privacy Regulations on Data Retention Policies

It should go without saying that it’s critical to base your data retention program on sound policies that conform to relevant laws. One such linchpin law is the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which already influences international data policy and inspires copycat legislation in US states and other countries.

These laws include various provisions to defend people’s privacy. For instance, they allow individuals to control how companies process their data, which data the company stores, the duration of storage, the correction process for any errors, and personal data removal from a company’s storage if desired.

You can’t implement compliant policies without understanding the data privacy laws you’re trying to follow. Make sure your retention times meet all regulations and dispose of data at the appropriate times. Identify any types of personal information that you must store subject to stricter laws (such as protected health information) and implement safeguards. If it turns out you’ve kept any personal data longer than you should, correct this situation immediately.

Best Practices For Data Retention Policies

To build and maintain effective data policies, start by identifying the relevant legal and business requirements—then consider the data types and stakeholders.

Did You Know: A data archiving service like SOLIXCloud – Enterprise Archiving can help enforce your policies effectively.

1. Involve the Right Stakeholders and Data Owners

While creating a policy, it’s essential to have input from everyone impacted by it and who will be needed to enforce it. These individuals likely have valuable opinions on retention strategy and storage; they may even argue persuasively for keeping some data longer than you had planned. Also, consider the views and responsibilities of data “owners”: the departments and people who oversee specific sections of company data.

You should include your finance or accounting team and legal and governance teams.

2. Identify Legal and Business Requirements

It’s critical for any data policy to know what requirements it must meet. Based on your industry and location, several regulations could demand that your enterprise retain data for longer durations for audit and reporting purposes. Most regulations also provide specifics on what and how you need to store.

In addition to compliance necessities, several business requirements may demand you retain data for longer. Knowing those access requirements will help you build a successful data retention framework for your enterprise.

3. Consider all the Data Types

Enterprise data comes in various formats—structured, unstructured, and semi-structured. They could sit in siloed storage or be linked together logically to provide a complete view of a transaction or entity. When considering your retention strategy, it’s essential to be inclusive and ensure all relevant data (no matter the data type or place of storage) is well covered. For instance, a transaction could include a database record with associated contract and invoice documents in PDF files.

You can also allocate resources such as cloud storage tiers based on which types of data you need to store. Files that you refer to regularly should have fast access—but data for long-term storage can go in less expensive archives.

4. Understand the Impact on IT

While meeting retention requirements is mandatory, it’s essential to do so cost-effectively and optimally. Remember, data you retain for a longer duration is rarely accessed. If retained in production systems, this pile-up could significantly degrade the system performance, add to your hardware and software licensing costs, and increase maintenance costs and effort over time. Awareness of the cost of data retention is critical for organizations to develop the right strategy.

5. Choose the Right Tech Solution

Today, there are several technologies that enterprises can leverage to build their own archiving or data retention strategy. However, due to the complex enterprise data landscape (think data types, data volumes, complex ERP applications, multiple regulations to comply with, and so on), a mash-up of several siloed technologies could add to the complexity instead of simplifying things.

Therefore, it’s essential to rely on a data-archiving technology solution that can support and enforce your organization’s retention strategy—across all data types and applications. You need a tool that provides a uniform interface to help compliance and business teams meet their requirements.

data retention
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SOLIXCloud Enterprise Data Archiving—The Answer For Compliant Data Retention

With data regulations and the enterprise data landscape becoming ever more complex, a policy-driven and comprehensive data archiving solution is essential for organizations to ensure compliance. At the same time, IT organizations don’t want to waste their precious time and resources on rarely accessed data.

Thankfully, Solix Technologies offers an enterprise archiving solution to effectively help organizations of all sizes balance these data retention requirements.

With SOLIXCloud’s Enterprise Archiving, organizations can now benefit from a fully managed cloud-based enterprise archiving solution. This low-cost, secure, and compliant solution offers an array of comprehensive capabilities, including:

  • Connectivity to all enterprise data sources for data lifecycle management
  • The ability to store and manage structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data in low cost cloud storage
  • Enforcement of uniform policy-driven data retention and governance
  • Real-time access to archived data via search, APIs, Forms, SQL, and reporting tools

Are you ready to refine your data retention policies? Visit our website to learn more about SOLIXCloud Enterprise Archiving—or contact us today for a solution demo or POC.