Guidelines for Managing E-Mail
IT Policies, Standards, and Guidelines
Guidelines for Managing E-Mail
At the University of Connecticut electronic mail has become the preferred means of communication for many tasks within the University. Not only is it used for ‘official’ communication, it is replacing the phone call and face-to-face contact as a means for casual or informal communication. While this new electronic environment provides many benefits, it may not offer the same flexibility that the paper environment provided with respect to one’s ability to save all communications. Due to the limited disk space to be shared by the entire University community, a quota has been set for individual electronic mailboxes. While the quota that has been set is high when compared to other institutions, it is very easy to fill up the allotted disk space if the mail is not properly managed.
This document is intended to offer some suggestions for managing your e-mail to insure that you do not exceed your quota.
Twelve Tips on Managing your E-Mail
The following tips on managing mail may be helpful in ensuring that you do not exceed your disk quota.
- If there are e-mails that you wish to keep, archive them to your local drive whenever possible.
- Ensure that your auto- archive is turned on. This will help to remove older records from your inbox and transfer them to your local drive.
- Review your ‘Sent Items’ folder on a regular basis.
- Delete messages you have sent that you do not require for future reference.
- If you require the ‘Sent’ message for future reference, move it to another folder.
- ‘Sent’ messages with large attachments should be saved without the attachment, since you should already have the attachment you sent. (In Outlook you may right-click on an attachment and choose ‘Remove’.)
- Sent messages that are part of a permanent record should be printed out and handled appropriately (See Appendix A).
- Use inbox rules and filters to file messages automatically within folders.
- Use the “Size” filter to see which e-mails are taking up the most space and decide if you need to archive, save, or delete the e-mail(s).
- Browse the subject line to identify important messages.
- E-Mail messages that constitute permanent records should be printed out along with all transmission and receipt data in the system.
- Messages that require action should be acted upon as soon as possible and then deleted. (For example, if the message is a notification of a meeting, delete message after you have responded to the notification and/or updated your calendar.)
- If your personal folder is in a place that is not normally backed up (say, to a directory on your C: drive of your personal PC) then you should backup this e-mail file yourself to some other device (floppy, Zip drive, CD-RW) etc. For backup strategies see Appendix E (Backup Strategies for Desktop Computers).
- Not replying to all recipients unless they all need to see your reply
- Using a subject line that includes a keyword or captures the content of the message. (This helps the recipient prioritize, file and search for messages.)
- Keeping messages brief.
- Avoiding large attachments and considering alternatives such as shared files or URLs.
- Following ‘General Formatting Guidelines for Official Communications’ when sending out communications using one of the official lists.
Additional Information: Managing E-Mail is similar to managing paper communications. Most individuals who receive paper mail make decisions about each piece of mail as it is received. Mail is usually read and discarded, acted upon, marked for some action, or filed in a filing system. Generally we do not return read items that have already been acted upon or marked for action to the same inbox. Similar decisions are required for electronic mail.
Fortunately, most of the e-mail that we receive is ephemeral in nature losing its value as soon as it is read. However e-mail may sometimes be used to communicate substantive information and therefore may need to be retained for some period of time. For information on retention, see Appendix B (Excerpt from Electronic And Voice Mail: Management And Retention Guide For State And Municipal Government Agencies). For guidance in determining who is responsible for capturing electronic records, see Appendix C (Rules for Deciding Who Should Capture an Electronic Message).
You are reminded that in spite of the good intentions of the University to respect an individual’s privacy, it is impossible to assume privacy with respect to electronic communications.
Click image to enlarge.
Excerpt from Electronic And Voice Mail: Management And Retention Guide For State And Municipal Government Agencies (General Letter 98-1) (Connecticut State Library, Public Records Administrator)
E-Mail is a means of sending messages between computers using a computer network or over a modem connected to a telephone line. This information consists primarily of messages, but may also include attachments such as calendars, directories, distribution lists, word-processing documents, spreadsheets, and other electronic documents. E-Mail is stored in a digital format rather than on paper and is retrievable at a future date. Due to format, E-Mail permits instant communication and transmittal of up-to-date information similar to the telephone. Unlike current telephone features, E-Mail creates a record of the information that is being transmitted.
E-Mail messages sent and received by public officials fall within three broad categories:
- Transitory messages, including copies posted to several persons and casual and routine communications similar to telephone conversations.
- Public records with a less than Permanent retention period; and
- Public records with a Permanent or Permanent/Archival retention period.
Retention guidelines for each of these categories are as follows:
- Transitory messages-No retention requirement. Public officials and employees receiving such communications may delete them immediately without obtaining the approval of the Office of the Public Records Administration and State Archives.
- Less than Permanent-Follow retention period for equivalent hard copy records as specified in an approved retention schedule. The record must be in hard copy or electronic format, which can be retrieved and interpreted for the legal retention period. When there is a doubt about the retrievability of an electronic record over the life span of that record, the record should be printed out. Municipalities and state-agency officials may delete or destroy the records only after receiving signed approval from the Office of the Public Records Administrator.
- Permanent or Permanent/Archival – Retention may be in the form of a hard-copy printout or microfilm that meets microfilm standards issued in GL 96-2. The information must be eye readable without interpretation.
- Legal Considerations Disclosure of E-Mail: Public officials and employees should keep in mind that E-Mail messages sent as part of their workdays are not “private” but are discoverable communications and may be subject to FOI. Since messages may be retained at different locations or levels of the system, users must remember that their communication can be retrieved during formal discovery processes. Discretion, therefore, is an important consideration when using this or any other new technology to send, record and/or retain communications.
- Confidentiality of E-Mail: Electronically transmitted information travels though many networks, and many different computer connections. Unless encrypted, this information is not secure, and should not be considered private. Agencies are advised of the risk involved in using e-mail to deal with confidential issues.
Rules for Deciding Who Should Capture an Electronic Message
The following rules may be helpful in determining who is responsible for capturing a record of an electronic message.
- When you send a message:
- It is the responsibility of the initiator of a message sent either internally or externally to keep a record of a message if it is appropriate.
- Outgoing messages should only be captured once they have been sent.
- When you receive a message:
- If you receive a message from within the organization, you are not responsible for capturing the message as a record.
- If you receive a message from outside the organization, you are responsible for capturing the message as a record if it is appropriate.
- If you are cc’d a message from outside the organization, and the main recipient is outside your organization, you are responsible for capturing the message as a record if it is appropriate.
- If you are among several main recipients (all within your organization) of a message sent from outside the organization, the person who is primarily responsible for the project or matter is responsible for capturing the message as a record if it is appropriate.
Excerpt from “Filing and Record-Keeping Manual for The University of Connecticut”, Historical Manuscripts and Archives Division, 1984
There are 3 basic types of office filing systems that may be used either separately or in combination.
- Alphabetical Filing System – A folder is created for each person, place or thing and these folders are arranged in alphabetical order.
- Chronological Filing System – A folder is created for each year or month/year.
- Subject Filing System – A folder is created for each subject/category – e.g. Academic Planning, Budget, Department Meetings, Personnel, Policy and Procedures. The folders are then arranged alphabetically. In some cases there may be subfolders for each category to further separate items.
Backup Strategies for Desktop Computers
In general, one should back up all critical files on a regular basis, consistently label the backup media and store the backup media in a safe place. Individual criteria will determine the frequency of the backups and the backup media selected.
- Networked File Storage:
- Some faculty and staff have access to file storage on a departmental server or other networked device that is being backed up on a regular basis. Depending on the amount of file space available for individual use, copying critical files to the network device may be an option.
- USB (“Flash”) Drives:
- USB disks offer an inexpensive means for backing up e-mail files. However, the long -term reliability of these drives may be questionable and should be considered as a factor in making the determination of using these drives as a means for long-term (exclusive) backup medium.
- CD\DVD burner:
- Many newer computers are equipped with a CD-RW (read/write) or DVD-RW drive that permits one to copy data (burn) onto a CD or DVD. A single CD can hold up to 700 MB of data, which is typically enough to store several month’s worth of email. A single DVD can store 6 times the amount of a regular CD.
- Saving e-mail on your local drive:
- You have the ability to archive your e-mails and place them onto your computer’s hard drive.
- External Hard Drive:
- Hard drives can be purchased which plug into the outside of a computer through USB ports or Firewire ports. These drives can be purchased in various sizes and can be used to store massive amounts of data. These drives are typically portable and can be used on many different computers, making it possible, and easy, to transfer data from one place to another.