records retention

Your Next Test Drive May Not Run on Gas or Batteries



One great thing about Tesla that sets it apart from other automotive companies, is that they allow customers to take a private test drive their Model S. If you’re looking to buy a car with a hefty price tag, you probably want to get a feel for what it’s like before you make the decision to purchase. The Model S receives all sorts of rants and raves as the best electric car on the market, but with a $90,000 price tag, you still want to get behind the wheel rather than relying on reviews from Tesla fanatics.


FileTrail offers their own version of a test drive by providing a sandbox system.  The FileTrail Sandbox is an actual running system – not a demo – that is set up for your private experience.  The FileTrail Sandbox is currently available at no cost to AM Law 250 Law Firms, and can be available in as little as 24 hours.  Serious buyers can even test drive FileTrail in a sandbox pre-loaded with their data for a more realistic experience.

Normally when you install software, bits and pieces of it are installed all over your computer’s hard drive, leaving orphaned files even after the software is uninstalled. Because the FileTrail Sandbox is in the Cloud you can safely test drive the system without any changes being made to your servers or desktop computers.  Once you select FileTrail you can determine whether to implement the Cloud solution or install on-premise with your IT department.

The FileTrail Sandbox includes all the configuration tools. This allows you to make configuration changes to adjust the fit or confirm how easy adjustments are to accommodate future change.


Many of our current clients, including Jackson Lewis and Husch Blackwell, started with a test drive in the FileTrail Sandbox before selecting FileTrail as their Records Management solution. 

Before starting the test drive in the FileTrail Sandbox many organizations create a checklist of features and capabilities they want to see.  This typically includes processes like file creation, printing labels, searching, reporting, applying retention, managing holds, and more.  The test drive usually kicks off with a brief training on the checklist items, and includes help desk support during the test. 

Some organizations begin with a week of testing against the checklist without any training.  The purpose of this is to test how intuitive the FileTrail software is for a new user with no knowledge of FileTrail, and really kick the ‘user experience tires’ hard.  We actually love this kind of test drive, and have incorporated this feedback into the software to improve the UI and streamline processes.


Shared Drives are Big Investments


Corporate Shared Drives: > $2k per Terabyte

From startups to giant enterprises, the quick and easy way to save and share information has always been with shared drives. From the floppy disk to portable thumb drive, employees would pass on information like documents and files, from one hand to another. Employees on a daily level won’t even think twice about their shared drives creating duplicates, or documents that aren’t version controlled, and how much storage space they’re using.

However the question today is: How much are we paying for the convenience of shared drives?

As an organization, are you wondering where your money is going for the convenience of your employees using shared drives? Let’s take a look.

Storing Information Cost $$$

Whether your company is hosting an on premise solution, or paying monthly for their cloud service, data storage is expensive. The going rate for shared drive storage will run a company about $2 a gb. When thinking in terms of terabytes, that’s going to run you $2,000. The equation is simple here, the more data you have equals the more storage you’ll need.

The issue with shared drives is that they’re inherently difficult to control on a management level. They tend to belong to the individuals that use them and those individuals dictate what information is stored.  Also, there are no technical restrictions as to what can be stored onto a shared drive thus corporate regulations are difficult to apply. What this leaves your company with is a drove of data that is likely to be a duplication of other duplications.

If your employees are loading these duplications up into your server, next thing you know, you’ll have whole terabytes full of unmanageable files and documents. The more regularly your company utilizes personal shared drives, the more you’ll have to pay for storing all of that bad data.

Reduced Productivity Cuts into Profits

With shared drives, there’s no confirmation that what you find, is the latest version of the file or documents you need. The lack of version control reduces productivity when an employee has to double check or even triple check to make sure the file is correct. This waste of time cuts into productivity which cuts into the profits that an employee is bringing in, either through sales or support.

Without regulating and managing the information that gets stored, shared drives not only create duplications, they save unfinished files or older versions of the file. When an employee is looking for Mr. John Doe’s files, they might very well pull up a half finished report.

Not controlling duplications and versions being stored, make it nearly impossible for document searches to be done. Employees will spend a significant amount of time on company dime, searching for the correct and most up to date version of a file.

Better Save Up for Litigation Risks

The use of shared drives is an extremely high risks practice. Legal issues of any manner are costly and having an inadequate data management practice could result in numerous fees, failed audits and litigation risks.

With each and every item that comes from a shared drive going into your server, compliance and retention policies must be applied. In order to be legally compliant, this data must then be managed through its entire lifecycle and defensibly disposed. If your employees are storing important information on their personal shared drives and those records or files never make it up into your servers, then critical information can be lost at any moment. If your employees are storing redundant information files, then legally, your organization must apply compliance, retention, and manage the lifecycle of all redundant files.

Whether your organization is being proactive by setting corporate rules and steps to minimize shared drive risks, that time spent is costing money. If your organization loses information, that will cost money. If your organization fails to manage the data stored in and from shared drives, the cost of fees, failed audits and litigation risks will add up. This is cash that’s just flying out the front door.

From storage costs, to loss profits and litigation fees, shared drives are racking up a major bill within organizations. Don’t let their convenience fool you into thinking that this is a manageable practice because it’s not and everyday, organizations are forking over big bucks.



Information Governance vs. Records Management

Records Management has been around since the 80’s and 90’s, the dawn of the tech boom.

Physical records were king and office after office flooded through with records that needed to be organized and controlled. Records Managers were then heralded in to create structure out of records chaos.

Now, 20-30 years into the future and records are taking on a new form. There have been heated debates and predictions in the hopes of going paperless, yet physical records are still here. However, physical records are no longer the top dog and physical record accumulation has decreased.

What we define as a record has disproportionately shifted to include digital records that encompass and are not limited to emails, electronic documents, and digital photos. Records Managers are now in charge of more than ever before as electronic records compile exponentially faster than the physical records of the past.

Records Management Lifecycle Flow Chart

Records Management Lifecycle Flow Chart

Records Management involves the implementation of a process or system for directing and controlling an organization’s information (records). However, records management is not information governance.

Information Governance (IG) is a new tech term that has popularized within the last 10 years. It existed in forms prior to its title but it wasn’t studied and explored in the way that it is now, since information has transformed. You can think of it similar to how Google came to us first, but its parent Alphabet now guides it. Thus, Records Management came to us first, but now Information Governance guides it and many other IG stakeholders, at that.

So what is Information Governance and how is it different from Records Management?

IG is the strategy or framework for controlling information (records) in a way which encourages compliance, mitigates legal risks, and aligns to corporate governance policies. All IG stakeholders are then guided by this framework.

Consider these key stakeholders: Records Management, Information Technology, Information Security, Risk Management, Compliance, Legal, Data Science, Archival Administration, and Business Units.

For the next time it gets confusing when thinking about Records Management and Information Governance, just remember that governance is as the word implies, a governing body in which all information resides within. Governance deals with less of the day to day actions and more with the broader understanding of how to organize and manage information in protected and secure methods. Best practices within Information (records) Management would be to align your stakeholders to an IG framework or strategy that works to solve greater concerns within the organization.  A strong and comprehensive IG strategy for your organization will allow for a more organized and stress free Records Manager. Records Manager rejoice! What you’ve been looking for all along, to help take some of the load off, is here in the form of Information Governance.

Automation Should Get The Job Done And Be Defensible In Court

When is automation going to deliver the promises we have been hearing for years?  Automation is software that automatically classifies records, starts the review cycle automatically, notifies reviewers by email, escalates to managers when reviewers pass deadlines, and presents content for review on the desktop of the reviewers so they don’t have to print and circulate reports (just now, I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of trees suddenly cried out in relief…). This real automation means that we Records Managers are not doing the clerical work anymore.  Instead, we are managing the process and the policies and enforcing their implementation.  This automation is here and is changing records management. Today as a solution to the information explosion, organizations have decided to adopt a document retention policy and schedule. The purpose of adopting such a document is to ensure:

1)  Orderly access to and retention of important documents

2)  Routine and appropriate disposal of such materials that is no longer necessary for the organization to meet its business, ethical or legal obligations.

3)  Full compliance with the organizations legal and ethical duties, including, but not limited to, any duties that may arise as a result of any litigation

If your organization has a document retention policy, this is usually the time of year when you review the retention schedule and attempt to dispose of the information that has satisfied the end of its document lifecycle. I say “attempt” because most organizations fail at the monitor and audit stage in the lifecycle. They have a clear document retention policy and schedule which outlines how long to keep certain documents, but the process is not followed. One reason is that no one in the organization wants to be held responsible for disposing of the information. Another reason is that mergers and acquisitions happen all the time and people are constantly moving in and out of roles and responsibilities.  Today with the right automation these processes are handled by the software, no one can stop the system from reviewing and bringing to the attention of the stake holders the items that need to be destroyed or on hold or need to be placed on hold. This is automated policy enforcement.

What usually gets lost in the shuffle? You guessed it…Records Management. Now, if you’re fortunate enough to still have a Records Manager on staff, they will do their best to move the process along. However, they will not be the ones to pull the trigger and dispose of the information. The reality is that it’s actually worse to have a document retention policy and not follow it, than not have one at all. On the other hand, it’s not good practice to keep everything forever, just because you may need the information someday. This will just compound your disposition problem and make matters worse when you finally decide to start disposing of information.

Think about what would happen if you never got rid of anything in your home and you lived in it for years and years. Every time you purchased a new item, such as a piece of furniture, toy, etc., you just tossed the old item in the attic. What would happen when you ran out of room in your attic or decided to move to another location? It would take forever for you to go through all your stuff. How much better it would have been to dispose of the old items when you purchased the new ones.

The solution to this problem is to automate the disposition process and that automation forces action to take place. Actionable Records Management and Compliance enforcement. This needs to happen to be successful and insure that all that up front document retention development work doesn’t go to waste.  But what does “automate” really mean.  Many of my peers talk about the drudgery of using their automation solutions.  Sure, the software calculates destruction dates.  Sure, the software allows them to place holds on content.  But, many are still printing out reports, screaming for people to do reviews, then entering holds and approvals from the marked-up report.  A few lucky souls have workflows that provide a little more “automated” solution.

And if you are not yet in a galaxy far, far away, here are a few radical concepts that could change our lives.  Real automation lets me control the automation; it gives me actionable dashboards so I can react to the processes that are in front of me without further searching and evaluation. All this based on policies and retention times that were decided, approved and made policy previously.  Some content is important and disposition needs to be signed off explicitly.  I want to trim my workload by making the disposition reviews for other types of content simply optional –it is gone if it has no value and there is no review.

In summary, organizations need automation that enforces their policies. We need to stop hoarding all of that information. The more information we have, the harder it will be to find that “needle in a haystack” and produce during the discovery process. As Records Managers, we need to stop hiding behind our boxes and take the lead on this initiative and make our companies aware that there is automation that finally meets these previously unattainable goals that we have had for years. The software is there to make our life much easier; we just need to embrace it. And that’s the bottom line, because this Records Manager said so!!!

Jim Merrifield, Director of Information Governance at FileTrail, Inc.

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Call me: (646) 584-7687

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