Data Retention

Data retention is the term used for storing and keeping data for a specific period of time based on legal, regulatory, business, or operational requirements. While for many organizations there is overlap with the term data hoarding, data retention involves defining policies and procedures to determine how long different types of data (the majority of which is unstructured data) should be retained, as well as ensuring compliance with applicable laws and regulations regarding data storage and privacy.

Key points about data retention:

  • Legal and Regulatory Requirements: Many industries and jurisdictions have specific regulations or laws that dictate how long certain types of data must be retained. These requirements aim to ensure compliance, support legal obligations, facilitate audits, or provide evidence in case of disputes or investigations. Examples include financial records, healthcare data, customer information, and communication records.
  • Business and Operational Needs: Organizations establish data retention policies to address their internal needs, such as operational efficiency, historical analysis, reporting, or knowledge management. Retaining data for a certain period allows organizations to reference past information, track trends, support decision-making, or fulfill business requirements.
  • Retention Periods: The duration for which data should be retained varies depending on factors such as data type, industry regulations, legal requirements, business practices, and risk considerations. Some data may only need to be retained for a short period, while other data, especially for compliance-related purposes, may need to be retained for several years or even indefinitely.
  • Data Lifecycle: Data retention is part of the broader data lifecycle management process. It involves stages such as data creation, storage, usage, archival, and ultimately disposal. Retention policies define how long data should be kept at each stage and provide guidelines for when and how data should be archived or deleted.
  • Data Security and Privacy: During the retention period, it is essential to ensure the security and privacy of the stored data. Adequate security measures, access controls, and data protection mechanisms should be in place to protect the data from unauthorized access, loss, or breach.
  • Disposal and Data Destruction: At the end of the retention period, data should be disposed of properly. Secure data disposal methods, including data destruction techniques like shredding or data wiping, should be employed to ensure that sensitive or confidential information cannot be recovered or accessed.
  • Legal Holds and Exceptions: In some cases, legal holds or litigation may require data retention beyond the initially defined periods. Legal holds suspend the regular data disposal practices to preserve relevant data for legal proceedings or investigations. Learn more about Smart Data Workflow use cases, including legal hold.


It is crucial for organizations to establish clear data retention policies, regularly review and update them to align with changing requirements, and ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Consulting legal and compliance professionals can help organizations determine the appropriate retention periods and develop robust data retention practices. Policy-based unstructured data management and mobility should be a core component of your enterprise data retention strategy.

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