Migrated from eDJGroupInc.com. Author: Babs Deacon. Published: 2012-12-28 09:00:34  

Winter is the perfect time to implement your personal retention policy.  When I say personal, I mean the records in your home: taxes, warranties, IDs, credit cards, etc.  Not only is it helpful for you and your family to get rid of paper and data clutter in order to free up space, but can you really be successful in your organization’s information governance effort if you don’t have your own house in order, literally?

I think this is the perfect time of year because workloads may be lighter during the holidays and because I like to close out my financial records for the calendar personal tax year right as it’s ending.  Why wait until April when you can tidy your documentation for 2012 and make sure that information is separate from what will start coming in for 2013?

I have a personal document retention policy for my tax supporting documentation (original receipts), which I created in 2009, and have maintained, since.  It is very simple and arbitrary.  I did not consult an attorney or a CPA and it works for me because my taxes are fairly simple.  I am not suggesting that everyone follow my specific timeline, just that people look at their personal information in a methodical way and put a small amount of effort into this kind of housekeeping.

I chose to destroy all of the backup, paper and digital, seven (7) years after the tax year filing date.  I had a box of receipts, each year in a clearly marked envelope.

  • I made a log in Excel with five columns: Tax Year, Filed Date, Okay Destroy Date, Destroyed, Initials.
  • I logged all of the years of receipts in column one and then checked the related tax returns to fill in the date they were filed in column two.  If you’re really a timely tax filer – you could choose April 15 of the following year but I had one or two years where I filed for an extension.
  • I calculated seven years after the filing date and put that in column three.  That way I wouldn’t have to calculate every time.
  • Now each year when I file my current taxes, I go into the box and take out the envelope that is ready for destruction according to the log.  I destroy the paper (fireplace) and write in the date of destruction and my initials – this gives me a feeling of tidy-satisfaction every year.

This year, because of my personal computer setup, I will need to add the deletion of related digital documentation to the log.  I am very methodical in how I organize information on my Mac but I realize I will have to really look at my disaster recovery solutions to see where the tax data is stored.  The real issue will be in understanding the impact of deletion on my “cloud” backed up DR data.  As an information governance professional, I should already know this, but I suspect that I am not the only cobbler whose children have no shoes.

This is a great opportunity for me to look at my backup solution, Mozy, that I have used for several years, and compare it to iCloud which has just become interesting now that I have an iPhone, iPad, MacBook and iMac. (disclaimer, I have a few shares of Apple stock).  The questions I should be asking:

  • How do I restore from my offline backup?  I’ve never tested this and I really should know before the next “Frankenstorm”.
  • How long do Mozy and iCloud keep automatically backed up files once I’ve deleted them from a device.
  • Right now, iCloud is a lot more expensive per GB than Mozy.  Should I use Mozy for disaster recovery backup and iCloud to share files among devices, only?
  • Do I need my external hard drive, which I use for onsite backup, or can I begin to rely solely on “the cloud”?
  • If I am honest with myself I must ask: do I have copies of old tax files on CDs that I used as my backup solution in the days before cheap external hard drives and home offline storage? How will I deal with the appropriate tax files stored on the same ROM media with items I want to save?

As I plan for a systematic dissolution of this digital data I think, ugh, what a tedious project to do when I’d rather be quaffing eggnog and celebrating surviving the Mayan apocalypse.  But, it will be really good to do this on a very personal, micro level without the benefit of a records manager or IT support.  I think it will enhance my own professional practice and I encourage everyone in the IG / eDiscovery Community to participate in a similar process in their own homes.  Who knows, it might just keep you off of an episode of “Hoarders.”

eDiscoveryJournal Contributor and eDJ Group Director of Strategic Consulting – Babs Deacon

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