8 Good Practices in Creating & Maintaining Electronic Records

Electronic records are easy to create, manipulate, distribute, and store. The maintenance and preservation of electronic records come fraught with challenges, however—in terms of accessibility and the risks of human tampering, technology failures, and rapid technology changes.

When creating and maintaining electronic records, follow these guidelines to minimize the risks inherent in digital materials and to better ensure long-term preservation and future access:

  1. Accessibility
    Select hardware, software, and file formats that best ensure accessibility over time—such as Windows and Macintosh computers, Microsoft and Adobe software, and widely-used, non-proprietary file formats.
  2. Identification
    Ensure proper identification of electronic records through the use of file naming conventions. Metadata (descriptive and other information about the records) is often auto generated by the software program, with the option of manually adding more information. Examples of metadata include:
    — Name of creator or creating office
    — Name of action or matter
    — Type of document or documentary form
    — Digital presentation
    — Date(s) of creation and transmission
    — Documentary context
    — Draft or version number
  3. Integrity
    Ensure electronic records carry information that will help verify their integrity, such as the name of the office of origin or person with primary responsibility.
  4. Organization
    Organize electronic records into logical file groupings, such as how people work, activities, procedures, and thematic areas. (Refer to "A 10-Step Records Management Plan for Your Unit.")
  5. Protection
    Protect electronic records from unauthorized action by restricting access to computers and using passwords or biometric authentication.
  6. Backup
    Protect electronic records from accidental loss or corruption by making backup copies regularly and often, or by storing the records on a server that is regularly backed up.
  7. Steps Against Obsolescence
    Guard against hardware and software obsolescence with regular upgrades. Copy records that won’t be accessed often to magnetic media that is periodically refreshed.
  8. Transfer
    Transfer records of historical value to the University Archives.
For more information, contact Ed Busch at the Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections, archives@msu.edu or 517-355-2330.

“8 Good Practices in Creating & Maintaining Electronic Records” is based on “Creator Guidelines—Making and Maintaining Digital Materials: Guidelines for Individuals,” InterPARES2 Project

*Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to read PDF documents.