Are you interested in creating or modifying a data retention policy? A company’s data retention policy describes how it saves data for compliance or regulatory reasons and destroys information once it is no longer required. A basic data retention policy should describe the formatting and storage system or devices for records and data. The regulations of any relevant regulatory body would determine all of these things.

According to Economist, data is one of the most valuable resources in the world today. As a result, data has become a coveted commodity for businesses of all kinds and a target for hackers. Given the vast data that organizations collect — as much as 7.5 septillion gigabytes per day — and the number of laws and regulations designed to safeguard it, your company must establish stringent data retention rules.

Data retention definition

Data retention is the process of retaining data and how long it should be kept. It covers what data should be saved or archived, where it needs to go, and how long it should be kept. Depending on the requirements, primary storage may be cleared or transferred as historical data to secondary or tertiary storage after a particular data set’s retention period expires. This way, the company remains compliant while still keeping its primary storage clean.

What is a data retention policy?

A data retention policy, also known as a record retention policy, is a company’s established procedure for keeping records. A data retention policy typically includes the following elements:

  • What data must be kept
  • Where it should be kept and how it should be filed
  • How long should the data be kept
  • Whether it should be archived or deleted in the future
  • Who has the power to dispose of data
  • In the case of a policy violation, what should you do
All About Data Retention Policy, The Definition, Period Needed, How To Build One, Best Practice, Examples, Applied Legal Standards And How To Change One
Everything you need to know about data retention policy

Although the primary goal of a data retention policy is to guarantee correct data management under applicable legal standards and rules, it may also help your company become more efficient.

Many organizations develop their data retention policies; however, they must also ensure those practices meet or exceed all applicable data retention regulations, particularly in highly regulated verticals. As a result, businesses frequently utilize an industry-specific data retention policy template.

For example, publicly-traded firms in the United States must have a Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) data retention policy. Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) data retention policies are required for credit card payments organizations. Healthcare organizations must follow HIPAA rules when it comes to data retention. And regardless of whether they are EU citizens, any organization that processes or retains personal information relating to EU citizens must adhere to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

How to build a data retention policy?

A typical data retention policy will describe its aims in retaining information, describe the users it covers, and define the scope. Next, it will make reference to relevant references documents, legislation, and rules and regulations. The specific requirements for maintaining data would then be addressed, such as a general retention timetable, data protection standards during storage, destruction procedures for data, and breach rules enforcement and compliance.

All About Data Retention Policy, The Definition, Period Needed, How To Build One, Best Practice, Examples, Applied Legal Standards And How To Change One
Everything you need to know about data retention policy

When establishing a personal data retention policy, you must carefully audit all data collected to verify that your company’s data retention policy covers all of the personal information it gathers. Personal information in databases, papers, emails, financial records, pictures, production statistics, system state details, and videos may be crucial to your data retention policy.

Consider the location of the data subject next. In certain circumstances, separate data retention rules may be required for dispersed data across various locations. This is partly because several business and legal restrictions may apply to different databases, servers, hardware, and other facilities.

Data retention policy best practice

You should follow these three steps:

1. Recognize and categorize the data your business generates

Knowing what data your organization captures and classifying it is the first step toward creating a solid data retention policy. This might be PHI such as patient names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, medical information, and treatments for healthcare organizations or credit information for financial services firms. This could be CHD, PINs, credit ratings, payment histories, or loan information for financial service companies.

It’s a best practice for data retention to categorize information. Because not all data requires the same retention, many frameworks and legal rules encourage businesses to sort it.

2. Learn which legal standards apply to you

In recent years, there’s been a resurgence of attention on data privacy, which has resulted in the development of new and complicated data privacy laws and regulations across the world. Organizations may have additional regulatory obligations due to the mixture of regulatory frameworks they are already required to follow.

3. Delete data once it is no longer needed or after the retention period has ended

This is an essential best practice for data retention that many businesses overlook. They believe keeping data longer than necessary might be more secure than deleting it and needing it later.

Maintaining data for longer than required by law or longer than is required to accomplish a task may have various consequences, ranging from minor fines to heavy penalties.

All About Data Retention Policy, The Definition, Period Needed, How To Build One, Best Practice, Examples, Applied Legal Standards And How To Change One
Everything you need to know about data retention policy

What is a data retention period?

A data retention period is the length of time information is kept by an organization. Different types of data should be stored for varying lengths of time. Data should only be kept long enough to be helpful; however, certain laws and standards place specific requirements on data retention periods.

This is an example of a data retention schedule contained in this sort of data backup and retention plan:

  • Maintain a daily backup for 7 days
  • Maintain a daily backup for 4 weeks
  • Maintain a daily backup for 12 months
  • Maintain a daily backup for 7 years

Industry-standard data retention policy (examples)

What is the industry standard for data retention policy?

A data retention policy is a must-have for every company (or, if necessary, policies). Here are some sample data retention policies from well-known businesses to give you an idea of what yours might look like:

Deep dive: Google data retention policy

We’ll look at Google because it’s one of the businesses that processes, retains, and distributes the most data daily.

Google captures data while you use its services. The Privacy Policy for Google explains what information they gather, why they need it, and how you can control it. The retention policy explains why Google keeps various sorts of data for varying lengths of time. So, what information does Google keep?

Delete data when you want, whether manually or automatically deleted, and some data remains in Google’s servers for more extended periods if necessary. Google has a deletion procedure to ensure that your information is securely and wholly removed from their servers or kept only in anonymized form. Google explained in a video what happens when you delete something:

As you can see with the Google example, the backbone of the data retention policy is what you keep, why you keep, and when you delete after you answer these questions, you need to reshape them for regulations.

Advantages of data retention policy

A data retention policy is required by law for any organization subject to regulations. However, there are other reasons to create one. Data retention policy best practices also have several advantages for any company.

The fundamental problem with data management is little consistency in keeping data. Information management policies are at the heart of data management more generally. Organizations rely on both paper records and electronic information, and huge quantities of digital information are frequently unable to be stored or cataloged in conventional filing systems.

Identifying and cataloging accounting data, customer correspondence, electronic communications financial data, sales statistics, and other mission-critical digital business information not only aids in compliance. These techniques also aid firms in resuming operations following a catastrophe by backing up accurate data frequently enough to recover from crises.

All About Data Retention Policy, The Definition, Period Needed, How To Build One, Best Practice, Examples, Applied Legal Standards And How To Change One

Regularly reviewing your data retention policy in information management may help you eliminate outdated and duplicate files. Deleted duplicate and out-of-date data speeds searches, eliminates confusion and improves the user experience.

A more innovative, streamlined data retention policy might free up additional storage by preserving new information and content space and migrating outdated data to the cloud. At the same time, eliminating duplicates is part of this electronic data retention legislation. Overall, the procedure saves time and money by lowering storage expenses and enhancing speed.

How to change data retention policy?

It’s critical to think beyond the organization’s legal requirements when developing or modifying a data retention policy. There are good business reasons to keep data and records, such as a desire to redeem or reject credits or warranties. Your industry may even require a recall or new standards.

Keep these data retention policy best practices in mind as you develop or audit an existing one:

  • What is the industry standard for data retention and recordkeeping?
  • How do that standard and your company’s data retention policy affect your ability to sell the firm or acquire other firms in the future?
  • In the case of an audit of tax records, would your data retention and purging process and IT data retention policy provide enough data?
  • Is your data retention policy equipped with the information you need to respond to an employee tort like sexual harassment or a workplace law claim?
  • Is your customer data destruction policy useful in the event of a product liability lawsuit?
  • Is your data retention policy backed by disaster recovery and protection from data loss, including the ability to restore in the event of server failure, premises damage, virus corruption, intentional sabotage, accidental devastation, and other calamities?


Creating or changing a data retention policy has several vital stages. You should be clear about what data you retain for how long and why. We’ve discussed how valuable information has become today’s world, so let’s reiterate that the indemnity for data leak claims has also increased. That’s why you should prepare your organization to defend it from potential damage.

Data retention regulations are more than just a defense against litigation. Your firm might require a data retention policy, a complex set of rules, to be more efficient. This structure safeguards your data from corruption and loss by keeping it where it belongs as you need by law. You can speed up the business process by knowing where to look for the information you require.

That’s all there is to it. You’ve now learned what you should look for when developing your data retention policy and the advantages and how to execute the process. So, learn the regulations in your region and get to work. It’s time to reconsider your data retention policy if your company collects, keeps, or transmits data.

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