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How Should Companies Handle Business Communication from the Legal Perspective?

— October 22, 2020

Having the ability to search a complex email archiving database and quickly get reliable results is particularly important when in a time crunch.

The heart of business communication is still email, but in recent times, especially with remote work rapidly gaining momentum, it has also come to include instant messaging, social media posts, and other forms of online discourse. 

With new ways of relaying sensitive information, a new type of concern has arisen – how to legally handle business communication. 

The answer lies in email compliance, but not all companies are sure how best to achieve and maintain it and still do business the way they have envisioned. Let’s examine how to go about it. 

What is Compliance in Terms of Business Communication?

Compliance refers to the goal of ensuring a particular action or process is performed per set requirements by relevant regulatory bodies. In relation to business communication, it pertains to relaying and storing sensitive and often confidential business information in its original form, in a secure manner, for a set amount of time, with access being granted to authorized personnel only. 

In that sense, email archiving is a relatively new business practice the aim of which is to ensure the safekeeping of digital communications in accordance with valid legal acts. 

How is Business Communication Compliance Regulated?

Depending on the region and industry in which a company is performing business operations, legal acts dictate different rules of governing business information. 

For example, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act states that all companies doing business on US soil or listed in the United States must save all types of digital communication for a minimum of five years. The same email compliance rules are applicable to all US-operating companies regardless of their size or industry or they face penalty, imprisonment, or a fine. 

Moreover, under HIPAA all medical institutions must keep and relay confidential patient information for future reference in a secure manner and according to a strict set of guidelines. 

Additionally, SEC Rules 17a-3/a-4 and NASD Rules 3110/3170 stipulate that all email communication pertaining to stock exchange activities must be kept from six years to indefinitely, and be presented upon request in a timely manner. 

These examples are specific to the US, but similar email compliance regulations can be observed when crossing the Atlantic, as well. 

The GDPR is probably the most famous legislation in recent years, which states that all companies doing business in the European Union must take very specific measures to ensure that personal information cannot be used to identify their customers. This relates to their name, gender, address, financial information, sexuality, age, religious and cultural background, etc. Furthermore, companies are under the obligation to let customers control how their information is managed. 

How to Achieve Business Communication Compliance?

Before beginning to create a retention policy, companies must take stock of all legal documents that regulate the way business communication should be handled in their industry or location. When there are no specific regulations, all professional correspondence is supposed to be kept for a period of seven years – as a general rule. 

Aside from defining the retention period, legal acts also state which type of information is to be stored and for what purpose, where and in what way, as well as who can have access to the information.

Deleted Emails Can Be Recovered. Photo by Web Hosting on
Deleted Emails Can Be Recovered. Photo by Web Hosting on

The next step is to assign people responsible for formulating and executing the email compliance strategy. Those roles usually include: 

  • Compliance officer – makes sure all forms of business communication are archived in accordance with legal requirements
  • IT manager – designs archiving strategies and procedures for a particular company
  • Sysadmin – responsible of implementing and maintaining appropriate tools
  • All company employees – consistently follow company guidelines in relation to business communication. 

Another integral part of achieving compliance is choosing the tools that are able to support the necessary requirements – whether they are specific to the company in question, its industry, operating region, or something else. 

This phase should include examining questions that pertain to:

  • Email archiving technology used
  • Storage location – on premise, in the cloud, or via virtual deployment
  • Schedule of email saving and storage expunge
  • The logic behind email recycle process
  • How quickly emails can be produced as evidence
  • Formats in which emails can be produced, etc.

In this regard, modern pieces of software are designed in such a way to allow safe data storage with points of access under strict control. Most top-of-the-line email archiving solutions strongly protect the confidentiality of clients’ data and even archiving service provider employees can gain access only when requested and physically granted by the client. 

Moreover, they are specifically designed to comply with the necessary legal requirements, thus enabling companies that implement them to operate within the law and avoid hefty non-compliance fines. 

Additionally, such tools compete amongst themselves to offer a wide array of search options and thus facilitate and accelerate the process of eDiscovery or similar information requests. 

Having the ability to search a complex email archiving database and quickly get reliable results is particularly important when in a time crunch, which is why both customer companies and those providing archiving services pay a lot of attention to the feature. 

Having in mind that companies involved in litigation and under a court order to provide evidence of business communication within the set time frame are facing million-dollar fines if they fail to deliver, having uninterrupted access to this type of information is directly related to companies carefully planning and maintaining their financial stability. 


With modern ways of conducting business come modern concerns of how to do it legally. Email archiving seems to be the safest way of storing all forms of business communication – in their original form, with guarded access and the ability to be extracted quickly and with little effort. In turbulent times, taking precautions of this type can prove to be crucial for maintaining business continuity and stay afloat. 

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