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Public Records Archiving in the Remote Work Era

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    Public Records Archiving in the Remote Work Era

    Workplace communications are increasingly taking place on digital platforms and various devices, a trend driven by the broad adoption of remote work in the pandemic era. Official government-business-related communications are being sent and received over email, collaboration platforms, text messages and social media, from a combination of mobile devices.

    This expansion of interactive tools has made the preservation and retrieval of electronic communications, as required by state sunshine laws, increasingly complex, time-consuming and costly. Government organizations now need to be able to store, search and produce content from a growing variety of platforms.

    Citizens, reporters, watchdog organizations, legal representatives and other constituent groups have strong demands for government transparency, efficiency and spending. There is mounting pressure to provide quick, comprehensive public records responses. Failure to do so could lead to lawsuits, hefty fines and reputational damage.

    County agencies are investing in technology solutions like Smarsh, which are designed to meet the ever-evolving content preservation needs for public records management. Smarsh solutions capture, store and index communications for simple search, from all channels, in one place. We are excited to be a NACo corporate partner to help counties meet recordkeeping obligations, manage legal and reputational risk, and reduce the time and cost of responding to public records requests.

    A more efficient, updated records response process can save time, money and keep your organization out of the headlines. Here are some common questions about electronic records management and how Smarsh can help.

    1. Which public communication records must be saved?

    As more communications tools are permitted, a growing variety and volume of electronic records accumulate, requiring modern archiving technology. During a webinar discussion about an update of Texas public records laws, Smarsh customer Bruce Erratt from the Brazos County Attorney’s office said, “We realized that we were going to have to be responsible for text messages in the same way that we’re currently responsible for emails. They were going to have to be archived and searchable, and we will have to be able to provide them in response to a public information request.”

    In addition to emails, counties should be capturing and archiving these business-related communications:

    • SMS/MMS text messages
    • Social media posts and activity
    • Chat messages on platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams (private chats and group chats)
    • Shared files and collaborative documents
    • Contextual metadata (joined/left a chat, edits/deletes)

    It’s also important to consider how these messages are stored and retrieved. For example, the format these records are saved in can have a major impact on how quickly and completely public records requests or legal inquiries can be fulfilled. Some archiving platforms flatten and convert electronic message records into email, removing critical contextual information. Smarsh preserves communications data in its native format, making it easier to retrieve and review for a request.

    2. Are separate archives necessary for different content types?

    Some counties use multiple archives to store different content types. But as those channels evolve and data accumulates, it can become unwieldy. Having communications records in so many disparate locations put a heavy strain on IT, legal and records management departments.

    Smarsh solutions capture and store data from all modern communications channels approved for official business. Records teams, attorneys and human resource staff don’t have to track down IT to search multiple servers, or chase down individuals for screenshots of text messages, email or social media communications.

    Consolidating to a single, comprehensive repository like Smarsh also makes it easier to capture conversations in their entirety as they move organically from one channel to another. Capturing and storing interactions that happen across text, email, chat and other channels helps paint a complete picture. Having them in the same place makes exporting and completing records requests more efficient and cost-effective.

    3. Can content be captured from company-issued mobile devices and employee devices?

    In the era of mixed-device environments that can include both organization-issued mobile devices and personal devices, Smarsh public records management software can automatically capture work-related communications no matter who owns the hardware.

    If security is a concern, offering agency-issued phones has the benefit of allowing you to mandate passcodes, install your own firewall or anti-virus software and safely transfer devices when someone leaves. With bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies, employees use their own phones, and you can install containerization or Electronic Device Management solutions over the top, to capture only business-related communications.

    As a technology partner, Smarsh can give your county more flexibility by helping to capture and archive all mobile communications data. Phone carriers don’t store customers’ text messages, so Smarsh has partnered with carriers like Verizon and AT&T to seamlessly capture and retain text message content directly.

    Whichever policy you choose, make sure to train employees on your mobile policies to ensure compliance and avoid headaches when information is requested.

    4. Will our electronic communications data be secure?

    Counties face a lot of challenges when it comes to cybersecurity efforts: lack of resources, aging technology, new communication tools, lack of understanding from decision makers and lack of funding. Unfortunately, counties, just like many private businesses, are targets for security breaches and data hijacking, making it crucial to safeguard access to public records data. Given the proliferation of new communication channels, and with more workforces operating remotely, the scope of electronic records that public agencies need to protect is broader than ever.

    Counties should be assured their archived communications data is private and secure. Smarsh solutions are supported by enterprise-grade security that is designed to protect government data.

    Retention and oversight requirements have heightened the need for archiving technology like Smarsh, that provides immutable, search-ready storage of electronic communications, enabling on-demand production of records and helping to mitigate cybersecurity risks.

    5. Can you produce public records on demand?

    When it’s time to respond to a records request or e-discovery event, you’ll need the capability to respond comprehensively and quickly. Electronic records need to be stored in an immutable and compliant format for as long as the retention schedule requires.

    Smarsh automatically indexes fully threaded conversations in their original format, to preserve data integrity and give full context to the interaction. Then when someone must retrieve that information, they should be able to search by person, message type or keywords to find what they need more easily.

    As a NACo corporate partner, Smarsh simplifies the public records management process for counties, securely and dependably. Ensure you’re taking steps to stay in compliance with open records laws and avoid potential legal, financial or reputational issues. Learn more here.

    Workplace communications are increasingly taking place on digital platforms and various devices, a trend driven by the broad adoption of remote work in the pandemic era.
    2021-03-15
    Blog
    2021-03-15

Workplace communications are increasingly taking place on digital platforms and various devices, a trend driven by the broad adoption of remote work in the pandemic era. Official government-business-related communications are being sent and received over email, collaboration platforms, text messages and social media, from a combination of mobile devices.

This expansion of interactive tools has made the preservation and retrieval of electronic communications, as required by state sunshine laws, increasingly complex, time-consuming and costly. Government organizations now need to be able to store, search and produce content from a growing variety of platforms.

Citizens, reporters, watchdog organizations, legal representatives and other constituent groups have strong demands for government transparency, efficiency and spending. There is mounting pressure to provide quick, comprehensive public records responses. Failure to do so could lead to lawsuits, hefty fines and reputational damage.

County agencies are investing in technology solutions like Smarsh, which are designed to meet the ever-evolving content preservation needs for public records management. Smarsh solutions capture, store and index communications for simple search, from all channels, in one place. We are excited to be a NACo corporate partner to help counties meet recordkeeping obligations, manage legal and reputational risk, and reduce the time and cost of responding to public records requests.

A more efficient, updated records response process can save time, money and keep your organization out of the headlines. Here are some common questions about electronic records management and how Smarsh can help.

1. Which public communication records must be saved?

As more communications tools are permitted, a growing variety and volume of electronic records accumulate, requiring modern archiving technology. During a webinar discussion about an update of Texas public records laws, Smarsh customer Bruce Erratt from the Brazos County Attorney’s office said, “We realized that we were going to have to be responsible for text messages in the same way that we’re currently responsible for emails. They were going to have to be archived and searchable, and we will have to be able to provide them in response to a public information request.”

In addition to emails, counties should be capturing and archiving these business-related communications:

  • SMS/MMS text messages
  • Social media posts and activity
  • Chat messages on platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams (private chats and group chats)
  • Shared files and collaborative documents
  • Contextual metadata (joined/left a chat, edits/deletes)

It’s also important to consider how these messages are stored and retrieved. For example, the format these records are saved in can have a major impact on how quickly and completely public records requests or legal inquiries can be fulfilled. Some archiving platforms flatten and convert electronic message records into email, removing critical contextual information. Smarsh preserves communications data in its native format, making it easier to retrieve and review for a request.

2. Are separate archives necessary for different content types?

Some counties use multiple archives to store different content types. But as those channels evolve and data accumulates, it can become unwieldy. Having communications records in so many disparate locations put a heavy strain on IT, legal and records management departments.

Smarsh solutions capture and store data from all modern communications channels approved for official business. Records teams, attorneys and human resource staff don’t have to track down IT to search multiple servers, or chase down individuals for screenshots of text messages, email or social media communications.

Consolidating to a single, comprehensive repository like Smarsh also makes it easier to capture conversations in their entirety as they move organically from one channel to another. Capturing and storing interactions that happen across text, email, chat and other channels helps paint a complete picture. Having them in the same place makes exporting and completing records requests more efficient and cost-effective.

3. Can content be captured from company-issued mobile devices and employee devices?

In the era of mixed-device environments that can include both organization-issued mobile devices and personal devices, Smarsh public records management software can automatically capture work-related communications no matter who owns the hardware.

If security is a concern, offering agency-issued phones has the benefit of allowing you to mandate passcodes, install your own firewall or anti-virus software and safely transfer devices when someone leaves. With bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies, employees use their own phones, and you can install containerization or Electronic Device Management solutions over the top, to capture only business-related communications.

As a technology partner, Smarsh can give your county more flexibility by helping to capture and archive all mobile communications data. Phone carriers don’t store customers’ text messages, so Smarsh has partnered with carriers like Verizon and AT&T to seamlessly capture and retain text message content directly.

Whichever policy you choose, make sure to train employees on your mobile policies to ensure compliance and avoid headaches when information is requested.

4. Will our electronic communications data be secure?

Counties face a lot of challenges when it comes to cybersecurity efforts: lack of resources, aging technology, new communication tools, lack of understanding from decision makers and lack of funding. Unfortunately, counties, just like many private businesses, are targets for security breaches and data hijacking, making it crucial to safeguard access to public records data. Given the proliferation of new communication channels, and with more workforces operating remotely, the scope of electronic records that public agencies need to protect is broader than ever.

Counties should be assured their archived communications data is private and secure. Smarsh solutions are supported by enterprise-grade security that is designed to protect government data.

Retention and oversight requirements have heightened the need for archiving technology like Smarsh, that provides immutable, search-ready storage of electronic communications, enabling on-demand production of records and helping to mitigate cybersecurity risks.

5. Can you produce public records on demand?

When it’s time to respond to a records request or e-discovery event, you’ll need the capability to respond comprehensively and quickly. Electronic records need to be stored in an immutable and compliant format for as long as the retention schedule requires.

Smarsh automatically indexes fully threaded conversations in their original format, to preserve data integrity and give full context to the interaction. Then when someone must retrieve that information, they should be able to search by person, message type or keywords to find what they need more easily.

As a NACo corporate partner, Smarsh simplifies the public records management process for counties, securely and dependably. Ensure you’re taking steps to stay in compliance with open records laws and avoid potential legal, financial or reputational issues. Learn more here.

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