Why create a data disposition strategy?

Once a record’s retention period ends, an organization must dispose of it. By following a retention and disposition policy, organizations can reduce the amount of data in their possession. There is no exposure risk for data you don't have in your system.

Paula Smith

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Paula Smith

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June 30, 2022
Why create a data disposition strategy?

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Once a record’s retention period ends, an organization must dispose of it. By following a retention and disposition policy, organizations can reduce the amount of data in their possession. There is no exposure risk for data you don’t have in your system.

In principle, data minimization ensures only relevant data is retained. A good general rule is to only retain information under these guidelines:

  • Subject to a legal hold
  • Has ongoing business value
  • Is required due to compliance regulations

All other records should come under a retention policy, ensuring they are managed throughout their data lifecycle and are properly disposed of when they no longer have business value or are legally required due to compliance requirements.

Different information will have individual retention and disposition schedules. How long to keep records is determined based on sensitivity levels, categorization, and relevant legal authority.

What is data disposition?

An organization collects sensitive information as a part of running its business. Data disposition refers to the various methods of deleting this data. It’s unreasonable, and possibly illegal, for an organization to store data forever or longer than it needs to keep it.

As part of a strong cybersecurity or information management strategy, organizations need to consider how data is removed from their system. Without proper data retention and disposition management, organizations raise their risk of a serious data breach and could face legal repercussions for not following compliance regulations.

Implementing a data disposition policy usually begins with identifying data debris. This is also known as Redundant, Obsolete, or Trivial (ROT) data or records without any retainable information. Disposing of data debris alone could lead to huge savings in storage expenses.

But data disposition takes it a step further by ensuring retained data is disposed of when it is no longer needed by the organization or moved to an archive if it contains permanent value. The process enables an organization to only use cloud or on-premises storage they actually need instead of continuously growing storage usage for data with no value.

Why dispose of records?

A growing data corpus poses many challenges to organizations. There are struggles with logistics, legality, and even privacy issues when organizations don’t implement a data disposition strategy. Some of these issues include:

  • Increased storages costs due to keeping data forever
  • Not meeting industry or government compliance requirements
  • Lack of data governance
  • High amounts of storage lead to difficulty finding and classifying data
  • If a breach occurs, a larger than necessary database of sensitive information is exposed
  • Difficulty managing vast quantities of records

The goal of data storage isn’t to keep it secure forever. Instead, organizations can view data storage as one of the first steps of a disposition strategy. Disposition should focus on enabling the business and simultaneously meeting retention and disposal requirements.

The benefits of data disposition

A data disposition policy fits seamlessly into an organization’s overall cybersecurity or information management strategy strategy. It can also make it easier to manage an organization’s data. While there are many benefits to implementing an effective data disposition program, let’s review some of the main points.

Improved security

Ideally, an organization will create one data disposition policy making it easy for employees to securely search, classify, store, and destroy records and data. Ensuring records are destroyed in a routine, transparent, and timely manner is a crucial aspect of cybersecurity. Data disposition policies ensure historical sensitive information is not at risk of exposure because it won’t exist once it loses its business value.

Improved risk and compliance posture

One of the key pillars of data disposition is to classify data. This can include marking personally identifiable information (PII) and payment card information (PCI) data which can help organizations comply with regulations. Accurately analyzing and classifying records is crucial to determine retention periods and disposition. It can help you identify compliance gaps and ensure there is a disposition process to meet regulatory requirements.

Improved customer privacy

Individuals have a growing awareness regarding how their personal information is used by organizations. Customers demand privacy, and data disposition helps ensure their needs are met. Organizations should position themselves as trusted sources. By only holding customer data for as long as it has business value or as required by law, customers can have confidence in your organization.

The importance of making disposition a part of your retention policy

If an organization handles sensitive information, it has a responsibility to protect it. Protecting data is expected by consumers and even governments. Once a record has reached the end of its retention period, organizations should delete it.

On a cybersecurity level, disposition prevents unintentional or intentional exposure of historical data to unauthorized recipients. Depending on the industry and local regulations, organizations are required to have disposition policies to meet compliance regulations.

Disposition is also crucial to better records management. It provides many benefits to organizations including reducing storage costs, reducing vast quantities of data which make it easier to find records, and promoting confidence in the organization. By creating an information architecture with data disposition policies, organizations are empowered to continuously improve and scale records management.

Ultimately, an effective data disposition strategy mitigates risks while reducing operational costs.

Where to find your retention policy

An organization’s specific retention policy depends on its industry and the regulatory environment it operates. To create an effective retention and disposition strategy, organizations must identify the legal, privacy, and regulatory requirements for the data they collect. Some considerations include:

  • Public authorities: Local governments may have their own rules and regulations regarding how data is stored and deleted. Global organizations will also need to consider laws in different countries as well when managing data.
  • Industry regulations: Industries often have their own data security standards to follow. For example, financial institutions need to consider CPS234 and CPG234.
  • Relevant privacy legislation: Different regions have legislation regarding personally identifiable information which organizations need to consider. The EU has GDPR laws while the CCPA only applies to California residents.

Organizations also need to account for the ongoing business value of their data to create a retention schedule.

The landscape of data privacy legislation, compliance standards, and other legal requirements is constantly evolving. Technology is also rapidly changing to enhance information security. Organizations should consistently monitor these changes to ensure their data disposition strategy is effective and compliant.

What prevents disposition?

Disposition is crucial for records management and cybersecurity, yet some organizations are often afraid of the disposition process. Permanently deleting files isn’t a task easily undone. But this fear is often unwarranted since an effective data disposition policy will not delete any necessary records.

Not deleting unnecessary records leaves an organization more exposed to the threat of a data breach. Instead of only recent information getting exposed, an organization could expose several years of data which is a far bigger breach with heavier consequences.

How technology solutions can help

Technology solutions exist to help automate the retention and disposition review process. Automating data disposition enables organizations to manage data easily and meet compliance standards. An intelligent information governance solution can automatically analyze and classify records and mark files for retention, disposition, and holds.

RecordPoint offers centralized governance which connects data, records, and content from all sources across an entire network and locations, along with in-place data disposition. Organizations will have full control and transparency over all their records and information. Combined with machine learning and customizable rules, RecordPoint allows organizations to automatically classify records and apply relevant retention schedules, reducing the operational burden on users.

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