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Organizing E-mail

Now that we have reviewed what kind of public records e-mail may contain, and provided some guidelines for managing e-mail, let's look at the specifics of storing e-mail messages. For Executive Branch employees subject to Executive Order No. 18, in the near future, an e-mail archiving system will be offered by ITS.  The archiving system will capture and copy all incoming and outgoing messages, and retain the messages for the 10-year retention period as required by Executive Order No. 18. Even though employees will have access to their e-mail messages within this e-mail archiving system, you might consider organizing your e-mail using your e-mail client software on your C: drive and saving that file onto a file on the server. Check with your agency or office Information Technology staff or your Chief Information Officer if that option is available to you.  You will have better organized messages and easier accessibility to your e-mail messages by organizing your e-mails within your client software. After 24 hours, Executive Branch employees can and should move their e-mail messages into folders or delete them from their MS Exchange account.


For state agencies not subject to Executive Order No. 18, such as Council of State agencies and Judicial and Legislative Branch employees, how you store your e-mail depends on the retention period assigned by your retention schedule to the content in each message.

When managing your e-mail, ask the following questions of each message:

If yes, keep and maintain according to records retention schedule.

If no, once its value ends, delete and purge.

Only the primary keeper is responsible for maintaining the record copy. All other copies are reference copies and may be deleted when their reference value ends.

In most cases, the final version is sufficient for long-term retention.

When in doubt, keep it!

Storing E-mail

The Department of Cultural Resources recommends that you store your e-mail electronically.     If your office currently prints and interfiles e-mail messages; this practice can continue as long as an electronic version is being maintained.


Save the message electronically.

You have two options when you want to save an e-mail message electronically.

A) Keep the message in the e-mail client. This requires the least amount of effort and ensures quick access (when your messages are well-organized!) If you keep your messages in your e-mail client, it is important to create an electronic filing system that mirrors your paper files in order to stay organized.   You can create folders in your inbox that organize your e-mails by project or type of task. For instance, create a folder for all leave requests, or perhaps one for minutes from a specific meeting. The example below walks through the steps for creating a folder in Microsoft Outlook™ 2007 and 2010. However, other e-mail clients will have a similar process.


Step 1. From the File drop-down menu, select Folder --> New Folder.



Step 2. A new window will appear. Select Inbox when selecting where to place the folder. Type the new folder name -in this example it is 2012 Budget -where it asks for the name.


Step 3. The new folder appears within your Inbox. Move all related messages to this folder.


NOTE: You can use the "Rules" function in your e-mail client to help you automatically organize your e-mail into folders.   The rule function is an action that Microsoft Outlook™ takes automatically on an arriving or sent message that meets the conditions you have preset. To create a rule in Microsoft Outlook™ go to Tools and then Rules and Alerts.



You will have the option to create rules from a template or from scratch.


B - Save the message to your network or hard drive. Saving messages to the network is a good idea because a message might be frequently needed by co-workers, who can then access the message like any other file on your shared network. It is also an easy way to ensure that important records are backed up without having to regularly back up data on your own computer.



Step 1: Select the message you want to save from the File drop-down menu, select Save As.



Step 2. A window will appear that allows you to select the format and location of the saved file. Change the file format to .txt.

This will allow you to open the file without needing to open it in your e-mail client.

In this example we are saving this file to a network folder so that others may access it.



Step 3. Name the file using key information, such as sender, subject, and date sent. This information will be important when reviewing your files' retention periods. For more information on the best practices in electronic file naming, refer to the guidance on file naming at http://www.records.ncdcr.gov/erecords/default.htm. You can also view the file naming tutorials created by the State library here: http://digitalpreservation.ncdcr.gov/tutorials.html

If the message included an attachment, be sure to save that, too! From the File drop-down menu, select Save Attachments. You will then be able to select the attachments and location just like in the previous steps. Save it in the same folder, with a similar file name, as the message itself.

Note that this method must be used instead of copying and pasting the contents of the message into a word-processing document or other format. These steps make sure that all of the important information is saved with the contents of the message, including the sender, recipient, date and time sent, and subject line.

If the message was sent to a distribution list, expand that list before saving if possible, so that all of the e-mail addresses are displayed.


Try this quiz to match the folder name with the subject of the e-mail: Toggle open/close quiz question

Value: 1
Match the items.
The task is to match the lettered items with the correct numbered items. Appearing below is a list of lettered items. Following that is a list of numbered items. Each numbered item is followed by a drop-down. Select the letter in the drop down that best matches the numbered item with the lettered alternatives.
a. Subject: list of pubs for Annual Report
b. Subject: Request for Leave
c. Subject: Staff meeting minutes 3/25/08
d. Subject: Trip to New Orleans
e. Subject: Final Planning Report

Print the message and interfile.

When printing a message, just like when saving a file, it is important to save all of the technical information about the message, including the sender, the e-mail address, recipient, date and time sent, and subject line. Printing using the print tool in your e-mail client should ensure that this information is included. Do not forget about the attachments!


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