Email Management: Use Retention Tags to Manage Storage Effectively 

OTDI has been running a series of articles encouraging users to do some deep cleaning —spring cleaning—to optimize storage and decrease our overall storage footprint. Retention is one way to effectively use the storage by ensuring we keep university messages as long as required, then discarding them when they are no longer needed.  

Emails you send and receive regarding university business are considered records and need to be handled appropriately.  

3 Reasons to Use Retention Tags 

  1. Ensure You Keep What You Should Keep: A records retention schedule is a legally mandated tool that classifies records created, sent or received by the university, and provides instruction for records retention and disposition. Retention schedules cover records on any media format, including paper and electronic. 
  2. Ensure You Discard What You No Longer Need: Because not all records are equal in value or retention period, the retention period for each message is based upon the content and informational value of the message.  The key to effectively managing emails and electronic messages is to be proactive. University Libraries has extensive information about managing emails. Information about retention requirements that is presented here was drawn from the University Libraries’ existing documentation.   
  3. Manage Storage Responsibly: Using retention tags will enable you to follow Ohio State’s retention policies and will remove records that you no longer are required to save, reducing the overall number of messages you have stored. By doing so, you will increase storage space in your account to make room for messages that are helpful related to work on current projects. In addtion, managing storage responsibly could save the university money in the event of legal action and decreases our overall carbon footprint. 

How to Use Retention Tags 

University Libraries maintain both a General Retention Schedule and a Unique Retention Schedules that contains record series that are unique to a particular unit’s operations.  

Microsoft Outlook enables you to use Default Retention Tags, Retention Policy Tags, and Personal tags to adhere to university retention recommendations for email records. Based on Ohio State’s retention policies, the university has set up several recommended tags in Outlook for you to use: 1 month, 1 week, 1 year, 10 years, 2 years, 3 years, 4 years, 5 years, 6 months, 6 years, and “never delete.” 

Retention tags can be used with archiving, which we discussed in a previous article. We have posted how-to articles in the Administrative Resource Center so you can learn to use retention tags in the Outlook Web App, in Outlook for Windows and in Outlook for Mac. These articles also provide instructions for using your online archive in of these apps.   

While retention tags can be applied to individual emails, they work most efficiently when applied at the folder level using a functional filing structure. By doing this, retention tags can be applied to a high-level parent folder and is then inherited by the child folders. When you set a retention tag, the retention period for the tag begins based on the date of the email. Tags work best with retention periods beginning with a specific Creation Date (CR) or records that are transient. For retention periods that begin with ACT, which stands for “active,” it might be necessary to increase retention time by a year or two on the retention label to ensure you wait long enough for the active period and the retention period to expire.  

To ensure we are adhering to legal retention guidelines and using storage responsibly, we need to consider our email footprint now, and keep only messages that we need for current university business.