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This is actually the fifth entry within our NARA series. Browse the others below!

Email may be the lifeblood from the modern office atmosphere. While convenient, it’s produced an enormous supply of new records susceptible to federal records keeping rules. Additionally, it implies that a digital medium never created for permanent upkeep now must be managed forever.

NARA has mandated rules for that disposition and control over all federal electronic records, including email. Exactly what does NARA mean once they say “email?” Exactly what does it mean to “permanently preserve” an e-mail? What guidance has NARA provided?

What’s the guidance from NARA?

On April 6th, 2016, NARA released “Criteria for Managing Email Records in Compliance using the Managing Government Records Directive (M-12-18)” which states the next:

“The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) released Memorandum M-12-18, Managing Government Records Directive, on August 24, 2012. The Directive outlines targets for agencies to satisfy to build up a 21st-century framework for the treating of Government records. Directive Goal 1.2 states:

By December 31, 2016, Federal agencies must manage all email records within an e-mail. Email records should be retained within an appropriate electronic system that supports records management and litigation needs (which might include upkeep-in-place models), such as the capacity to recognize, retrieve, and support the records as lengthy because they are needed.”

Whenever we consider email, we have a tendency to consider Outlook or Gmail. However, a records manager must consider all of the contextual information which sits around an e-mail too.

So, what is an e-mail to some records manager? In the finish during the day, it’s just another kind of record (proof of a company transaction, action, or decision) that should be managed exactly the same way just like any other. Per NARA, the “email record” includes:

  • The header information that contains the FROM: and also to: (in addition to CC: and BCC:) addresses
  • The topic line
  • The starting time and date stamp
  • Your body from the email
  • Any attachments

Yes, attachments are thought area of the email record and really should be posted to NARA included in the discrete record package which includes the e-mail it had been mounted on. The format from the attachment could be overlooked, and it doesn’t need to be converted in the native format included in the email record. However, components like calendar invites, contacts, tasks, and messages aren’t considered email records by NARA and really should rather be scheduled and posted as records by themselves.

NARA has grouped the success criteria meeting the M12-18 mandate into four broad groups: policies, systems, access, and disposition.

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Effective records management regardless of the sort of record starts with and is dependent upon the policies that govern the business. Policies should be thorough, well-documented, and well-conveyed towards the team people inside the organization. Policies will normally be made the decision by organization leadership according to rules, mission, need, and then any other relevant statutes.

Fundamental essentials “marching orders” that are sent towards the records managers and personnel within the organization. The policies outline individual and business records management responsibilities, how training personnel is going to be accomplished, the processes and techniques that’ll be accustomed to satisfy the mandate, along with other factors in line with the mission and operational posture from the agency or department.

In the NARA Memo:

“What Success Appears Like: Your agency’s policies and training programs explain staff responsibilities for managing email records. The policies and training should instruct staff how you can separate permanent, temporary, temporary, and non-record e-mail and the way to appropriately handle e-mail that contains classified national security information and individuals produced on nonofficial or personal electronic messaging accounts.”

Just how can your team determine whether your organization’s records policies can help you meet NARA’s M-12-18 mandate? Thankfully, NARA provides a number of questions that may help you evaluate your policies while you work at compliance:

  1. Has your agency developed, disseminated, and implemented an authorized email management policy through the agency?
  2. Who would be the relevant stakeholders active in the policy creation process inside your agency (for instance, a CIO, records management team, IT, or General Counsel)?
  3. Does your agency possess a NARA-approved disposition schedule in position that pertains to emails that are federal records?
  4. Does your agency have procedures and policies in position to gain access to email as a result of information demands?
  5. Does your agency have procedures and policies in position to safeguard against unintended loss?
  6. Does your agency perform periodic reviews of records management policies with all of relevant stakeholders?
  7. Does your agency perform periodic audits to make certain workers are in compliance with records management laws and regulations, rules, and policies?
  8. Does your agency possess the policies, technological means, and operations to put legal holds on email records or accounts?
  9. Does your agency have policies in position regarding using personal or nonofficial email options?
  10. Have you trained all customers on the necessity to copy or toward official accounts federal records produced, received, or transmitted in personal or non-official email options?
  11. Does your agency adhere to the needs for managing security classified information in email options and systems?


Just about all federal organizations will have some existing email system Microsoft Exchange on-prem, Lotus Notes, Gmail, Microsoft Exchange Online, etc. A number of these emails systems include support for upkeep of email as records. Others provide accessibility records contained but perform either limited or no records management functions. Still others which may be being used don’t have any provision for either conveying or managing records. Systems need so that you can accept email records with attachments, store them, index them for search, and keep a defensible record of disposition.

This is when federal departments and agencies are embracing the IT and Records niche for assistance. Various goods are available which plug the “records gaps” left in enterprise-scale email systems and services.

For instance, AvePoint Records is laser-centered on helping federal customers satisfy the NARA mandate as seamlessly as you possibly can, turning policies federal customers create into technical specifications for automated records management through the enterprise. Centralized records rules and term management, delegation of file plan management, granularity, and inheritance simplify the entire process of records management from creation to final disposition.

In the NARA Memo:

“What Success Appears Like: Your agency’s systems and business processes support the treating of email records in compliance with all of relevant needs such as the manual or automatic execution of the disposition whether utilizing a Capstone-based or content-based record schedule.”

Federal organizations have to think about the following questions NARA provides to judge how their existing and planned IT systems enable them to satisfy the M-12-18 mandate:

  1. What systems does your agency use to keep and manage e-mail?
  2. Who inside your agency has got the ultimate responsibility for that systems that manage email, how email is utilized, and just how disposition is transported out?
  3. Does your agency manage email outdoors from the originating system inside a dedicated records management system?
  4. Does your agency’s email system keep up with the content, context, and structure from the records?
  5. Can your agency affiliate email records using the creator, their role, as well as their agency?
  6. Does the body support the aspects of e-mail identified in RFC 5322 including labels that identify each area of the header, the content content, and then any attachments?
  7. Are departing employees’ email records preserved in compliance with NARA approved disposition schedules?
  8. If your agency’s email system supports using codes or nicknames, or identifies addresses only named a distribution list, are you able to supply the intelligent or full names from the sender and addressee(s) using the transfer-level documentation?
  9. Can email be migrated in one system to a different in order to an e-mail archiving application to make sure consistent access?
  10. Does your agency use email systems to deliver classified information?


Success isn’t just determined by ensuring emails aren’t deleted. NARA includes the opportunity to search, read, reproduce, copy, and transmit this info inside their success criteria. Records are preserved for that express purpose of having the ability to retrieve them. Federal customers must make sure their repository is correctly indexed and searchable when planning it. This allows for that fulfillment of FOIA demands, research, historic precision, and employ during litigation. Without the opportunity to connect to the record, the record may as well not exist.

In the NARA memo:

“What Success Appears Like: Your agency’s email records are maintained inside a system that preserves their content, context, and structure, protects against their unauthorized loss or destruction, and helps to ensure that they continue to be discoverable, retrievable, and functional for that period specified by their retention schedule.”

Oftentimes federal records managers feel “access” may be the hardest problem to define. For them, it is really an IT problem, not really a records problem. It’s a stakeholder, but records managers possess a responsibility to tell IT of methods records access is different from “live” document access. NARA provides a summary of inquiries to help records managers because they use IT:

  1. Can your agency use, retrieve, and interpret email records through the entire NARA-approved retention period?
  2. Is your agency in a position to access email from current and departed employees?
  3. If your agency utilizes a digital signature or file encryption technology, is email functional and retrievable over the lifecycle?
  4. If emails are stored on local or removable media, could they be retrieved and looked when answering an info request?
  5. Is your agency capable of singing a federated search across multiple email options or multiple systems to locate emails required for agency business?
  6. Is your agency in a position to prevent unauthorized access, modification, or destruction of email records?

Blog Publish: 4 Essential Cloud Records Management Strategies for New Users


The “schedule” (or file plan) defines once the record will be delivered to NARA, destroyed, or perhaps is otherwise no more needed to become underneath the child custody from the federal organization that produced it. NARA is presently while developing a portal for federal organizations to transfer records to digitally. Until that’s available, records have to be converted, packaged, after which transmitted to NARA using a “manual” process. You will find choices for automation, but before the NARA portal is finished there’ll more often than not have to be an individual actor informed.

This schedule will find out the nature from the record, the time it’s to stay a “live” document, when it’s to become archived, and when it’s to become finally discarded or transmitted to NARA for permanent upkeep.

In the NARA memo:

“What Success Appears Like: Your agency has identified appropriate retention periods for email records and implemented systems and policies to aid the disposition as specified by an authorized records schedule.”

Once more, NARA provides a really handy listing of inquiries to help records managers because they try to satisfy the M-12-18 mandate:

  1. Does your agency have NARA-approved disposition schedules in position that find out the systems where federal email records are held?
  2. Has your agency examined existing disposition schedules to find out when they affect email records? Have you ever identified gaps within the disposition schedules?
  3. Has your agency established procedures to affiliate email records with projects or situation files?
  4. Has your agency developed training to tell employees of the responsibilities for managing records in email options in compliance with approved disposition government bodies?
  5. Can your agency transfer permanent email records towards the National Archives from the U . s . States in compliance with approved records schedules and relevant laws and regulations, rules, and NARA transfer guidance?

“Permanent Preservation” – Old Concept, New Solutions

Within the Records Management and archivist context, “permanent preservation” is jargon that initially known the entire process of treating an actual object that should be preserved for offspring. Preserving an actual object includes processes like cleaning, sealing, mounting, along with other activities which make the item available and still provide protection to avoid it from degrading. Although the concept initially came about regarding physical objects, additionally, it applies well to electronic records.

When talking about electronic artifacts for example email and attachments, upkeep includes conversion to formats which will ensure availability, searchability, and readability, in addition to (along with a separate concern from) storage in high-availability, hardened, redundant systems.

In the “Format Guidance for that Change in Permanent Electronic Records” bulletin, NARA provided additional guidance about which formats to make use of along with other concerns around how you can package emails for permanent upkeep. The overall guidance NARA offers email is really as follows:

  • “Transfers of email records must contain an identifiable, organized body of records (not always a conventional series)
  • E-mail will include delimiters that indicate the start and finish of every message and also the beginning and finish of every attachment (or no). Each attachment should be differentiated in the body from the message, and distinctively identified
  • E-mail transferred as XML files should be supported by connected document type definitions (DTDs), schemas, and/or data dictionaries
  • Labels to recognize each area of the message (Date, To [all recipients, including cc: and bc: copies], From, Subject, Body, and Attachment) including transmission and receipt information (Time Sent, Time Opened up, Message Size, File Name, and other alike information, if available). To make sure identification from the sender and addressee(s), agencies which use an e-mail system that identifies users by codes or nicknames, or identifies addressees only named a distribution list will include information using the transfer-level documentation and
  • Email transformed into formats not natively utilized by the e-mail program, and that do not maintain header information (for example RTF or Word documents) aren’t recognized. Printouts of emails will also be not recognized under this Bulletin.”

Emails as well as their attachments could be stored in a number of proprietary systems and should be converted to some more globally defined and recognized format for permanent upkeep. NARA has designated specific formats as “sustainable,” stating “Sustainability, as it requires electronic file formats, may be the appropriateness of the format to preserve encoded information with time. Factors that lead to some format’s sustainability range from the availability and completeness of documentation and also the accessibility to applications that may interpret it.”

The formats selected by NARA were selected particularly since they’re open, universal, and technology agnostic. Observe that NARA particularly claims that “printing to some Word document” along with other ways of conversion to non-email formats won’t be recognized. NARA provides a summary of “preferred” and “accepted” formats for individual emails and aggregated packages of emails as Appendix A towards the 2014-04 bulletin.

With respect to the source system and also the record involved, further steps than conveying and conversion for an acceptable format might be needed. Metadata tagging, identification and possible redaction of sensitive information, format stripping and font normalization, file encryption or understanding, and deactivation of DRM are types of actions that might need to be used on email records before transferring these to NARA.

A few of these actions could be automated, as well as in a company having a robust records management culture, metadata tagging and identification, redaction of sensitive information, and records disposition all will be area of the comprehensive overall records management and knowledge governance policies. Technical enforcement of those policies with software programs automating whenever possible prevents delays, eases workloads, and eventually ensures better and compliant records management.

When first thinking about how you can satisfy the M-12-18 mandate, records managers may go through that the issue is too large to resolve. However, NARA provides all of the guidance a records manager must direct their organization within the transformation to digital records management with automation, simplicity of use, and security and compliance.

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