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Email is still one of the crucial channels for business communication, both internal and external. However, many company emails contain highly sensitive data and this data needs to be properly managed and protected.

Good email management practices are especially important nowadays when many companies are operating remotely, with limited control over their employees and their email usage practices and therefore higher risks of data breaches.

Here are some common email management mistakes you should avoid to protect your sensitive data and ensure a more productive workflow.

Failing to meet compliance

Because of the sensitive data they contain, company emails are often a target of hacker attacks and in the past few years, we’ve witnessed many high-profile data breaches. In a world where these cybersecurity attacks are not only a possibility, but quite a regular occurrence, companies need to be held accountable for the way they store and handle sensitive customer data.

These data breaches can leave companies not only with a damaged reputation and broken customer trust but also with serious legal and financial consequences.

While companies are not forbidden to collect customer data, there are laws such as GDPR that limit the way this data is being used and managed. You need to abide by these laws in order to avoid regulatory troubles for your business.

Besides GDPR, there are also other, industry-specific laws that regulate the handling of sensitive data within a certain niche. For example, HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) for the US healthcare industry, FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) for the US financial sector, and SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley Act) for companies listed in the USA.

Unfortunately, data breaches still happen despite these laws, and usually, they’re accidental. A survey commissioned by Egress shows that 83% of U.S. companies have accidentally exposed sensitive data, and the most common technologies that lead to these breaches were external email services and corporate emails.

Not having an email retention policy

In order to meet regulatory requirements, it is necessary to have a clear email retention policy. If you don’t precisely define retention periods for your emails, you’ll quickly lose track and risk violating regulatory compliance.

A well-defined email retention policy will also help your employees stay compliant by giving them a clear set of rules they need to follow. Besides your legal team, most departments won’t be familiar with laws and regulations regarding email retention, so these guidelines are necessary to keep them informed.

How long you should retain your emails depends mostly on the industry your business operates in. For example, in industries such as healthcare and finance, which deal with highly-sensitive data, email retention laws are particularly strict.

To help you define an email retention policy for your company, here are some of the most common industry-specific requirements:

  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS) — 7 years for all industries
  • Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) — 7 years for all public companies
  • HIPAA — 7 years for the healthcare industry
  • FINRA — 7 years for the financial industry
  • FDA — 2 years for the pharmaceutical industry
  • PCI DSS — 1 year for credit card companies

As you can see, there are different regulatory bodies that determine different retention periods, and in some industries, they can overlap. To be on the safe side, aim for the highest retention requirements relevant to your industry. It’s best to consult your legal team when creating a retention policy, as they are already familiar with relevant laws and regulations for your industry.

Running out of storage

With all these regulatory requirements and long email retention policies, it’s quite easy for companies to run out of archiving storage. Especially for big companies operating in highly-sensitive industries, looking at retention periods of up to 7 years, it’s easy to see how their email repositories can get overfilled in a few years’ time.

In fact, a 200 user company will accumulate more than 1 TB of data in a year, and this number will continue to grow year after year.

Email Management - storage
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That’s why it’s essential to thoroughly think about not just about your present needs but also your future needs when choosing the right email archiving solution for your company. Opting for a solution with a scalable storage system will allow you to grow without ever having to worry about running out of storage space.

Not utilizing automation

Once you’ve chosen the right email archiving system and created a retention policy, your job is not yet done. You actually have to put them to use on a daily basis. Email management is a full-time job, and not just a project.

Managing your emails manually can easily lead to mistakes and put your company at risk of mismanagement of data and violation of compliance.

Luckily, automation can help you streamline even the trickiest business processes. One of the most important features of an email archiving solution is the ability to automate email retention and take the guesswork out of email management.

Once you’ve created a retention policy, you can set up retention periods for different clusters of emails based on their level of sensitivity, keep them in your email repository for however long is necessary, and let the archiving software automatically delete them once the retention period is over.

This will keep your email storage cluster free without having to manually delete emails you no longer need from your archive, leaving your employees with more time to focus on other tasks and be more productive.

Automation of the email archiving process will make your day-to-day operations a lot easier by allowing you to easily search through your email archive. This can be especially valuable in case of a legal audit, allowing for a swift response and an overall smooth eDiscovery process.

Email management can be a daunting process and there are many mistakes you can make along the way. However, being aware of these potential pitfalls can help you avoid them and be more prepared to deliver data protection and manage your company emails more efficiently.