Gearing up for electronic record storage

With state statutes about the record status of e-mail still not well defined, local government agencies are working to improve their archiving systems.

With state statutes about the record status of e-mail still not well defined, local government agencies are working to improve their archiving systems.

Douglas County, the city of Superior and Superior school district are all working to implement systems that would preserve their employees' records for seven years.

E-mails are considered a form of public record if they pertain to official business, according to the Wisconsin Public Records Law compliance outline published by the Wisconsin Department of Justice in August 2007.

State statutes require e-mail records to be retained the same amount of time as their paper counterparts would be held depending on the content and subject matter. Any records not specified to be held for longer or shorter periods are required to be preserved for seven years. The state of Wisconsin is in the process of developing its standards for e-mail retention, which it also recommends municipalities and school districts to follow, according to the Department of Administration Web site.

The city of Superior and Douglas County together purchased a system to archive e-mails and make retrieval of individual e-mails easier, said Dave Dusek, Douglas County director of information services.


Superior is installing the Ocra system and it will soon be operational, said Dan Shea, city of Superior information services manager.

The city already backs up its e-mail for recovery yearly, but it's not easy to access an individual e-mail if requested, Shea said.

The Ocra system will make it easier if a request for an individual e-mail is made.

"This system will streamline the process and make it easier going forward," Shea said.

The county does not currently have any way to back up e-mails unless individual employees backup e-mail on their computers, Dusek said.

The county will slowly move its estimated 150 e-mail accounts into the archiving system during the next few months. County e-mail addresses will remain the same, the system will simply make a copy of each e-mail sent or received onto the Ocra system run by the city, he said.

None of the local government entities have ever received a request for e-mails, but are developing their archival abilities to align with the state recommendations.

Other government agencies are starting to do the same sort of e-mail archiving throughout the state, Dusek said.


The device Superior school district is using also will collect every e-mail sent or received by a district accounts and preserve a copy of each e-mail for seven years.

The district's e-mail system serves a variety of district employees from administrators to teachers and support staff members, said Sam Jones, Superior school district director of information technology.

Most people now send e-mails instead of paper memos and those relating to business must be maintained as part of the public record, he said.

The district's new system should be operational before the start of the school year Sept. 2. Currently, the district only maintains e-mails for one month as a preventative backup in case of technical problems, Jones said.

"It's an interesting transition. Over the course of many years, I think many forms of our correspondence will be electronic," he said.

The device to maintain the district's e-mail archive is a specialized server. The cost of the system is $30,000, which includes the server, software and a maintenance package.

Maple school district does not use e-mail to contact board members about district business, said Superintendent Gregg Lundberg.

If any e-mail pertaining to district business is sent or received, the district prints a copy of the e-mail and files it manually, he said.


Northwood school district works with an outside provider for its e-mail and could include archiving for an additional fee, said Northwood superintendent Jean Serum. Solon Springs' information technology person was not available for comment.

Anna Kurth covers education. Call her at (715) 395-5019 or e-mail .

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