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Friday March 17th 2017 | 14:42

Effective email compliance: how to meet compliance requirements, and why you should

Email continues to be an important method for business communication. Indeed, with the increase in globalised, disparate workforces and remote working it is becoming increasingly popular as a method for communicating and sharing data.

Consequently, email inboxes function as stores of important content, both conversations and attached data such as business records important, sensitive customer information.

Because emails contain such business-critical information, retaining email and other content shared electronically- and being able to easily search the stored data- is crucial for three reasons:

1. Regulatory

Laws govern the rules around storing and protecting sensitive data, including customer information, and it’s important to understand which government and industry regulations affect your organisation.

In the UK, these include the Data Protection Act 1998, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Civil Procedure Rules. In the US, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) are major regulations that concern data retention and protection.

Of course, with the upcoming EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), email compliance takes on a new urgency and seriousness. Affecting not only EU member states but any country that stores the personal data of EU citizens, the GDPR states that if organisations fail to comply and suffer a data breach, they could be fined €20m or up to 4% of the annual worldwide turnover, whichever is greater.

2. Legal

Organisations can be involved in legal proceedings for a variety of reasons. HR investigations, customer complaints, FOI requests and Subject Access Requests may involve the need the search and retrieve specific email data. It’s often important that this data is discovered in a timely manner, and is reliably comprehensive. Also, the parties involved all need to be certain that no one has been able to access and change any of the data after it has been sent.

3. Insight

Email and file data that is stored for fulfilment of regulatory and legal requirements is wasted if it is not leveraged effectively. Getting value out of business-critical information, and managing the organisational knowledge can provide additional benefits over and above the ability to meet compliance obligations.

These three reasons for email compliance are only getting more pressing. Increased liabilities due to lax data retention come in the form of fines, litigation, reputational damage and revenue loss via loss of customer confidence. However, organisations can meet this challenge by implementing an email and file archiving solution.

Routes to effective email compliance

Email compliance does not need to result in administrative headaches and prohibitive overheads, and here are some things to look for when considering an email compliance solution:

Fast, flexible search

Requirements for data may come on a legal basis, for example performing a legal hold or complying with FOI requests. Powerful search across many parameters, such as date, time, domain, user, security, attachment file type, sender and recipient, means that these requests can be fulfilled quickly and easily.

Integrate into existing security infrastructure

Archives need to integrate into the rest of an information security set up. This can include classification and email encryption solutions, and any tailored infrastructure that is implemented for data security purposes.

A holistic approach to information security provides greater security and educational value than piecemeal fixes to the data creation and sharing process.

Security and user privacy

There are ways to mitigate the risks around storing archive data in a centralised repository. Advanced archiving solutions can include comprehensive security and restricted-access functionality. There should also be a flexible permissions engine that enables administrators to set user permissions at a granular level. A comprehensive, detailed audit log is also crucial, for providing high levels of assurance and visibility over user actions.

Forensics and analysis

Intelligent forensics and analytics can allow businesses to find additional value in the data they are storing for email compliance purposes. High-quality e-Discovery reporting can demonstrate trends in email flow, revealing user habits and the effectiveness of current information security policy.

Improve productivity

Providing employees with access to their own archive via a simple user interface can be incredibly useful in situations of email downtime or during remote working situations. Being able to easily search historic email data, view intelligent analysis of this data, and recognise mistakes in information security practice can aide productivity and improve employee workflows. This user data can also help admins recognise potential information security risks, helping them discover where best to improve handling of sensitive data.

Effective archiving and reporting technology, then, can help organisations adhere to data retention regulations, and can provide an effective system for retrieving data when presented with regulatory and legal compliance requirements.

For more information please read our white paper, available here, or check out our GDPR factsheet.

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