Ten Tips for Managing Electronic Records

October is American Archives Month and on October 10th, archivists throughout the United States focus attention specifically on electronic records.

Why promote archives and e-records? Retrieving your data and files should be easy, but rapid hardware and software obsolescence puts electronic records at risk for data loss. The best time to plan for electronic records preservation is when they are created. Don’t wait until it’s too late! 

To help preserve your records, follow these best practices:

  1. File names: Logical, descriptive, and consistent file names dated in year-month-day format help with identification and sorting. Avoid spaces, full stops and special characters < > ” / \ | ? * : ^ $
  2. Version Control: Add draft and revision numbers to the file name and create a PDF to “publish” the final version.  
  3. Organization: Create logical and hierarchical folder structures. For example, group by category/date, draft/final. Create albums and delete unwanted  photographs in your phone as  you create them.
  4. Personal vs. business: Do not mix personal with business. Assume that some records may eventually become public (e.g. CUIMC administrative records after 25 years). This includes email, text or other team messaging applications. 
  5. Appraise: Decide which files are worth keeping. For work, consult your archives or records manager. For personal files, ask yourself what would be most problematic or upsetting to lose (e.g. resumes, tax returns, legal documents, letters, or family photographs). 
  6. Migrate: Converting files to preservation standards formats increases their longevity. 
  7. Copies: Follow the LOCKSS philosophy and save 3+ copies on multiple devices or servers in multiple locations. Ingest data to a repository or archive. For  photographs and videos, save master copies and share compressed versions.
  8. Capture: Columbia University routinely saves its website content but anyone can save webpages to the Internet Archive and/or use Conifer.
  9. Review and Refresh: Different storage media have different life spans. Check your files annually and replace media or migrate if necessary.
  10. Fixity: Create and validate “checksums” to know if your files have been altered, and thus, validate the integrity of the record. 

Final tip! If you have questions regarding the required retention or historical value of your records at CUIMC, refer to the CUIMC Administrators' Manual and/or contact Archives & Special Collections, Health Sciences Library or the General Counsel’s Office.

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