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Online Records Retention

5 Tips For Online Records Retention

How is your business dealing with the issue of digital record-keeping and online document security? Do you feel confident that you could present your records as authentic evidence to a regulator or judge? How quickly could you locate and obtain particular records or web pages if you were asked to produce them? These are the hard questions that smart businesses will ask themselves in the midst of rapidly changing digital world. Financial companies, publicly traded companies, and even governments must recognize the need for retention solutions that are up-to-speed with today’s new technologies (also the new regulations and demands that accompany them.) If your online back-up plan needs an overhaul, keep these points in mind during the remodeling.

1. Fragmention is not your friend.

Document management and compliance experts say when it comes to digital records, companies can get bogged down in narrow issues rather than looking at the big picture. Backup systems, software options, and other management solutions can be distracting from a focus on the overall flow and efficiency of the company. Here’s the deal: you’ve got lots of online content. It all needs to be preserved impeccably if you’re to remain both compliant (to records laws) and prepared (for legal situations).  PageFreezer speaks to that comprehensive approach by providing regular and secure archiving of all your online activity — as much or as little as you specify. No fragmentation — just seamless, automatic preservation of your records.

2. Regulation compliance may not be enough.

While it’s nice to know you’re in line with SOX, SEC, or FINRA requirements, bear in mind that the risk of litigation against your company is a pressing issue that must be addressed.  Many companies mistakenly believe that being in compliance with records retention laws automatically means their records won’t be challenged in court. Not so! As noted by Financial Advisor Magazine in an article on the subject, courts are increasingly questioning the validity of digital records.

A stunning example of this is the 2005 case of Vee Vinhee vs. American Express Travel Related Services Company Inc. — in which Vinhee (who was filing bankruptcy while owing over $40,000 to AmEx) won his case without legal representation and without even attending the trial. Amex lost because the company rested its case on its internal computer records, which could not be proven authentic to the satisfaction of the court.

3. You have the burden of proof.

The example above highlights the fact that companies are being held responsible for proving the authenticity of their records. The court must be convinced of the fact that the records have not been tampered with. According to Judge Christopher Klein (in his comments on the Vinhee case), the key issue is that the record is what it purports to be.  Is your business prepared to shoulder the burden of proof in court? It’s not such a burden when you utilize PageFreezer — we put a digital signature and timestamp on every page to assure data integrity and authenticity. Plus, we employ powerful search features that help you find the exact records you need, when you need them.

4. Better safe than sorry.

Another case concerning the admissibility of online records was that of Lorraine vs. Markel American Insurance Company (dated May 4, 2007).  This suit dealt with lightening damage to a yacht that was owned by Jack Lorraine and insured by Marckel. Both sides presented e-mail evidence to support their claims, but the submissions were rejected by Chief U. S. Magistrate Judge Paul W. Grimm. He said they failed to meet the FRE standards for admissible evidence. It was a landmark ruling in the arena of digital evidence. Grimm noted in his statement about the ruling, if it is critical to the success of your case to admit into evidence computer-stored records, it would be prudent to plan to authenticate the records by the most rigorous standards that may be applied. In other words, better safe than sorry! Choose the safe route — PageFreezer preserves your archives according to the highest standards possible.

5. Delegate — and breathe easier.

The whole issue of online records retention can be a real headache in today’s ever-changing technological climate. Companies drive themselves crazy trying to stay on top of the regulations and requirements! Don’t underestimate the peace of mind that comes with delegating this matter to a reliable outside service like PageFreezer. We handle the technology and shoulder the responsibility of maintaining perfect records for your business because you have other things to do. Feel free to do them while we archive your websites — keeping your company informed, compliant, and prepared.

Legal Implications of Twitter

As legal implications of Twitter skyrocket, is your company prepared?

Twitter-bird

This year has already seen multiple cases of social media fiascoes — the kind where a record of online content becomes the key to a whole criminal case or the basis for a lawsuit. It’s these cases that remind us of how vital social media has become to our communication, and how transient is the information that passes through those channels — unless it is caught and preserved. Individuals and companies alike must consider the possible legal implications of their own online conversations.

Social media matters in court.

Of all social media, Twitter is the most talked-about, likely because of the sheer volume of chatter that passes through it each day. 140-character missives, thousands of them per second, fill the social media space with all kinds of mostly innocuous information. But sometimes a single tweet skyrockets in legal importance, rising to the status of a public record or criminal evidence. It’s hard to predict when that will happen, or if your company will be the next one to suddenly wish it had irrefutable proof of exactly what it did (or did not) publish online.

Be prepared with defensible archives.

As subpoenas of social media content increase, be aware that your tweets may be required in court, especially as more companies are allowed to publish market-moving information and the market reacts to social media content. The information that passes through Twitter and other outlets can be misconstrued, misrepresented, or simply lost in translation. It can be used against you in a court of law, or thrown out when you were depending upon it as evidence. It can be requested by an opposing party, a regulator, or a judge.

If companies intend to use social media to communicate with customers, shareholders, and the world, they must take responsibility for their published content by keeping verifiable records. This presented a challenge in the early days of social media, but the technology now exists — in the form of web archiving — to capture and preserve even large volumes of social media content.

Take steps to make sure your posts are not lost as they slide past on Twitter or Facebook. Establish a social media policy that includes guidelines on capturing and preserving online conversations. Then, if the court comes knocking — you’ll be ready!

Tools for social media records

Do you have the 2 must-have tools for perfect social media records?

The jury is no longer out. Social media posts are business records. Though industry regulators vary on how long to keep them, social media posts are a vital piece of your company’s online history and must be preserved as such. Failure to retain social media content can result in sanctions, increased costs, and damaging of brand reputation.

That goes for government agencies as well. The public is counting on you to preserve faithful records of your conversations with them. Even if the lifespan of a post is only a few seconds, the statement has become part of your agency’s history by being posted publicly. Sometimes the short-lived posts and comments become the ones that matter most. If you allow social media content to be lost or deleted, you may be caught unprepared by FOI requests or investigations.

Fortunately, there are two key technologies that corporations and government agencies can employ to ensure they are prepared for any request for digital records:

real-time archiving and powerful search functionality.

With real-time archiving, records managers can rest assured that every post, comment, tweet, and update is captured. Rather than getting a snapshot of their social media page once per day, companies using real-time archiving are assured of a separate archive for each change that is made on their Twitter or Facebook profile. This is critical in court cases or FOI requests, when the details of “who said what, and when” become legally relevant. Real-time archiving ensures a full capture of social media activity, even if a post is quickly deleted.

Once you have thorough records of your social media activity, you will need powerful search functionality built into your archiving solution. Digging through digital records can be a drain on resources, especially if your records managers are not accustomed to responding to requests for digital information. The ability to slide through a timeline of your social media posts, narrow a search by keyword or date, and even perceive patterns in your social media activity are all valuable tools to help you dig up the exact post you need.

So, never fear. Even though digital records have grown ever more complicated with the explosion of social media use in business and in court, your company or agency can be prepared by investing in an archiving solution that covers your needs — from your most popular posts to your deleted tweets.

Social media mistakes

Is your company making the worst social media mistake?

social-logos-glow

We know.  Social media has grown so quickly, been adopted so widely and become so universally recognized as a viable means of online communication for businesses . . . it has left your company’s proverbial head spinning.  Keeping a lid on employees’ personal usage of social media at work is hard enough.  And now, across industries, organizations are creating their own social media presence, often without a clear idea of how to balance risks and rewards.  How were you supposed to keep up with it all?

Hopefully, you have thus far avoided the major pitfalls that can come with adopting social media as an organization — embarrassing PR gaffes, compliance issues, or legal tussles — but is your company committing the worst social media blunder of all?  To avoid this one supreme mistake is to avoid dozens of other potential disasters.

It is the mistake of embarking on social media as a company — without a social media policy.  No clear guidance for personnel on how to engage with the public on behalf of the company, or how to maintain their personal social media activity in a way that upholds the company image.  No outline of the legal do’s and don’ts; no suggestions for creating worthwhile content.  And a staggering 76% of companies make this mistake, according to a recent study.

We understand that many organizations have been taken unawares by the social media storm.  But investing time in developing a good social media policy will pay great dividends by allowing your online communications to flourish without the worry of legal or public relations disasters.  A social media policy doesn’t have to be complicated.  Certain industries will have more to cover than others, but in general you simply need to outline that social media content from your company should remain respectful, honest, law-abiding, and relevant.

Make it easy on yourself by downloading one of these Social Media Policy templates — a variety of examples to choose from — and tailor it to fit the needs of your organization.  Also, check out these helpful tips on developing a good social media policy.  There’s no reason to proceed any further in your social media journey without the security of a policy to keep everything legit.  It won’t solve all your problems, but it will prevent a good many of them!

Don’t forget that in addition to your policy which directs the use of social media within the organization, you will also need to have a plan for preserving your social media records since they are part of your business records.  Copies of your social media activity may be requested for litigation or regulatory purposes, especially if you are in the financial, pharma, government, or legal industry!  But we’ve talked about that elsewhere.

Prevent problems with social media usage before they start.  Develop a social media policy that’s simple and clear, allowing your personnel the freedom to represent your company online within parameters that will keep everyone in the conversation . . . and out of trouble.

Prevent Social Media Scandals

Three smart tips to prevent social media scandal

Social media scandal. It’s a dreaded thought for any communications manager. And it seems that more cases of social media missteps are published every week. Most recently, there was a public outcry against the Latah County Sheriff’s Office, which published a flippant Facebook post about a young man, wanted for several crimes, who subsequently committed suicide. It was a sad story which again raised questions about organizations using social media to communicate with the public. Do the benefits outweigh the risks?

Despite stories like the one mentioned above, it is possible to effectively use social media as an organization. But there are specific steps that should be taken in order to prevent mistakes, and to handle them properly when they do happen.

  • Have a social media policy and inform employees of the rules.

Social media’s explosive growth caused many companies and agencies to become active on social networks without taking the time to develop and implement social media policies. We would be willing to bet that the Latah County Sheriff’s Office did not have a social media usage policy — or if it did, that the guidelines were violated by the recent controversial post. Having a policy in place allows your employees to engage with customers, while preventing thoughtless posts. Not sure where to start on your policy? Here are some excellent tips on how to write one.

  • Apologize for mistakes, but don’t reactively delete posts or comments.

It’s a guarantee — something will eventually show up on your social media feed that doesn’t reflect well on your company or agency. Whether it’s a poorly-composed post by your company, or a negative comment from an upset customer, the temptation to delete can be strong. But deleting posts or comments (or your entire Facebook account, as the Latah County Sheriff’s Office did in the wake of the scandal) is never a good idea. It can lead to charges of spoliation of evidence in court, or damage your company’s reputation for integrity. Instead, apologize for mistakes and respond calmly to negative feedback. Then your social media will be an honest reflection of your company’s communication with the world.

  • Capture and save all social media content, in case of litigation or records request.

There may be times when you do need to remove content from your social media page — for instance, in the case of spam or wrong information — and you should be prepared to keep records of the content even after it’s deleted. For the sake of regulatory compliance, open records laws, and just plain common sense, every organization should employ a solution to capture ALL their social media content and preserve it in a secure, searchable format. That way you can safely delete content while retaining a record of it.

None of us expect to be be involved in the type of social media scandal that has overshadowed the Latah County Sheriff’s Office — but the truth is, the Digital Age has added a new level of liability to public communications. The steps outlined above will empower you to prevent and handle social media mistakes, so you can continue to engage online with confidence.

PageFreezer tops “Archival Acid Test”

Web archiving continues to be a critical issue as companies and organizations search for the most foolproof methods of preserving their online content. There are numerous tools and services out there, but how can you be sure which one can stand up to its claims? The primary concern is that an archived page with complex content can be very hard to capture and replay perfectly.

To investigate the strengths and weaknesses of various archiving tools, the Web Science and Digital Libraries Research Group at Old Dominion University developed an “Archival Acid Test”. The test evaluates features which modern browsers execute well, but preservation tools often have trouble handling (such as Javascript, CSS, and HTML5 content). The researchers tested five web archiving services – Archive.org, Archive.is, Mummify.it (no longer functional), Perma.cc, and WebCite – along with the archiving tools Heritrix, WARCreate, and GNU Wget. The findings were published by the University in a paper, which revealed that none of the tools tested were able to fully render a captured version of the elements that displayed perfectly in a live web browser (such as Chrome).

Since PageFreezer is industry-leading in its ability to capture and replay web content, we asked the group to put our service to the test. The results were telling – PageFreezer was the only tool to pass every requirement, even advanced features!

PageFreezer archiving acid test graphWhen you are using PageFreezer, you can be confident that you are working with the most advanced website archiving solution available. It makes PageFreezer a smart choice for regulatory compliance and other cases where accuracy and completeness are critical.

Archives on Demand

At PageFreezer, we believe in making website archiving easy. Really easy. That’s why we developed a user interface that puts you in charge. You can manage, edit, and fine-tune your archives without having to contact customer service or put in a request. The power is yours!

We even made it possible for you to create an instant archive of your website (or social media page) anytime you choose. This handy-dandy feature puts you in control and allows you to…

  • Save storage space. If your website doesn’t change frequently, you may choose to capture it only once per day or week. This helps you save storage space (and money). With archiving-on-demand available, you don’t have to worry about altering your archiving schedule if sudden changes are made to your site. Just take an instant snapshot and you’re good to go.

  • Be prepared for anything. Many companies archive their sites for litigation protection or regulatory compliance. If you suddenly need to produce a current copy of your website, you can do so easily, with no wait time.

  • Confidently update your website. Suppose you are working on an entirely new website, or doing a major overhaul of the one you have. You can feel confident about changing content when an instant archive is always available. This also goes for temporary pages or when you need to delete comments off your blog or social media page. No need to wait for the next regularly scheduled capture — just archive instantly and proceed with confidence!

On-demand archiving is simple to use. Here’s the breakdown:

  1. Log into your PageFreezer account

  2. Find the website you wish to capture and click “edit” on the right

  3. At the bottom of the Settings page, click “Advanced”

  4. That little button that says ARCHIVE NOW — click it!

Ta-da! Instant archive. You get a fully functional copy of your site as it exists right now, that stands as admissible evidence in court. Plus, you get that peaceful feeling that you have covered your bases before making changes to your site. And it happened with a few simple clicks. Now that was easy!