Definition

records retention schedule

Contributor(s): Ben Cole

A records retention schedule is a policy that defines how long data items must be kept and provides disposal guidelines for how data items should be discarded.

Records retention schedules, also called data retention schedules, are determined by the record type and the business, legal and compliance requirements associated with the data. Retention schedules establish guidelines regarding how long important information must remain accessible for future use or reference, as well as when and how the data can be destroyed when it is no longer needed.

The schedules are determined based on data type and ownership, and consider aspects such as the data's business value and associated regulatory compliance mandates. They often outline the business reason for retaining specific records, and designate what should be done with the data when it is eligible for disposal. Records retention schedules are designed to help maintain information governance-related regulatory compliance, as well as assure record disposal processes are legally defensible. As data volumes continue to grow at many businesses, records retention schedules can also help reduce records management and storage costs by disposing of data no longer relevant to business processes.

Records retention schedules are often part of a data retention policy, an established protocol for retaining information based on business needs.   

This was last updated in September 2014

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