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Managing electronic information

The amount of electronic information has proliferated in recent times and this presents unique challenges in terms of how we name, store, manage and dispose of it. Below there are some guidelines and links to a number of guidance documents to help you to manage electronic information. It is the content and not the medium which determines a record, therefore the same principles apply as for information in more tangible formats. In particular, remember that the Records Retention Policy and Records Retention Schedule apply equally to electronic information such as emails.

Shared drives

It is important that all staff use the shared drives for storing electronic information. In this way your colleagues are able to access it and duplication is reduced. It also ensures that the information is backed up, which is not the case if you store it on the C: drive or Desktop. Your personal networked drive (usually P: or G:) should be used for items which are relevant only to you or should only be seen by you, for example HR matters affecting you or a colleague. It is not acceptable to use this drive for personal files such as music or photos. Everything else should be in an appropriate folder on your departmental or team shared drive.

Saving web pages

Increasingly Queen Mary’s website is used to communicate important information and more College business is now carried out on-line. If the website holds the master copy of something then, in order that we can demonstrate what the website said at a particular time, information published on it should be retained for 7 years after it is no longer 'live'. 

The Rhythmyx CMS keeps an audit trail of revisions with dates so that previous versions of pages are available to view. Dreamweaver has no functionality to retain or archive copies of web pages. Therefore if you use Dreamweaver as your web editing software you need to take action by manually saving pages to folders on the shared drive. This can be done by transferring the html files to a folder on a shared drive and deleting it 7 years after the last pages are transferred to it.

Email

For Queen Mary, as for most organisations, email is the predominant form of communication. While many emails are not records, some are and need to be managed. The rapid growth of email as the default method of communication within organisations and the issues associated with this has created the need for special guidelines. These issues include growing email volumes, increasing email size, overuse of email, the negative impact on staff productivity, increasing risks of both inbound and outbound security threats, increased storage costs, system performance degradation, accidental disclosure of sensitive, confidential, damaging or embarrassing information and perhaps more importantly, the risk of losing important business records through the mismanagement of email. Moreover, emails can be requested by the public under the Freedom of Information Act.

Naming of files and folders

There are some best practices that should be adopted when giving titles to electronic folders and files. Standardising the ways in which this is done will assist retrieval and retention. The file directory displays file names in alphanumeric order by default.

Version control

When creating and revising information, version control can help manage drafts of documents and iterations they go through. If used properly it can help to keep track of which version of a document is the latest one and which was in force at any particular time. This is particularly important with electronic documents because they can be changed easily by a number of different users, and those changes may not be immediately apparent.

It is recommended to put the version number in the file name (and in the header or footer of the document). Alternatively it is possible to place a table at the front of a document detailing the version number, revisions, name of the author and the date. Use whole numbers for major revisions and numbers after the decimal point for minor, incremental revisions.

For details on how to name files see page 3 of the Electronic file naming conventions.

It is advisable not to use the versioning tool of Microsoft Office products as this significantly increases the size of files.

See also http://www.infosec.qmul.ac.uk/index.html Link outside ARCS for other information security advice and policies, including encryption and passwords. 

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