Email retention legislation in the U.S. requires companies to maintain copies of emails for many years. There are federal laws that apply to all companies, data retention laws for specific industries, and a swathe of email retention laws in the United States at the individual state level. Ensuring compliance with all the proper email retention laws in the United States is vital. Noncompliance can prove incredibly expensive and multi-million-dollar fines await any company found to have breached federal, industry, or state regulations.

Certain types of data must be retained by U.S companies in case the information is required by the courts, and that includes email. eDiscovery requests often require massive volumes of data to be provided for use in lawsuits and the failure to provide the data can land a company in serious trouble. Not only are heavy fines issued if data cannot be produced in eDiscovery, companies  can face criminal proceedings if certain data has been erased.

For decades, U.S companies have been required to store documents by law. Document retention laws are included in numerous legislative acts such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Executive Order 11246 of 1965, the Freedom of Information Act of 1967, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, and the Reform and Control Act of 1986, and data retention laws in the United States were updated a dozen years ago to expand the definition of documents to include electronic communications such as emails and email attachments.

To enhance awareness of the many different email retention laws in the United States, a summary has been included below. Please remember that this is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. For legal counsel on data retention laws in the United States, we recommend you get in touch with your legal representatives and industry and federal electronic data and email retention legislation in the United States are periodically updated.

As you can see from the list below, there are several federal and industry-specific email retention legislative acts in the United States. These laws apply to emails that are sent and received, and include internal as well as external emails.

Federal Email Retention Legislation in the U.S.

Email retention legislation Who it is applicable to How long emails must be kept
IRS Regulations All companies 7 Years
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Federal, state, and local agencies 3 Years
Sarbanes Oxley Act (SOX) All public companies 7 Years
Department of Defense (DOD) Regulations DOD contractors 3 Years
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Regulations Telecommunications companies 2 Years
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) Regulations Banks 5 Years
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Regulations Pharmaceutical firms, food manufacturers, food storage and distribution firms, manufacturers of biological products Minimum of 5 years rising to 35 years
Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act Banks and Financial Institutions 7 Years
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Healthcare groups (Healthcare providers, health insurers, healthcare clearinghouses and business associates of covered bodies) 7 Years
Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) Credit card businesses and credit card processing groups 1 Year
Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Regulations Investment banks, investment advisors, brokers, dealers, insurance agents & securities companies Minimum of 7 years up to a lifetime

Email retention legislation in the United States at the state level has not been included in this article. You should seek legal advice about any state-level laws. You should must also consider legislation in other countries where you do business. If you deal with individuals in Europe, or they can access your website, you will need to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) email requirements.

Storing emails for a few years is not likely to take up masses of storage for a small company with a few of members of staff; however, the more employees a company has, the greater the need for extensive resources just to store emails. The average size of a business email may only be 10KB, but multiply that by 123 – the average number of emails sent and received each day by an average company employee (Radicati email statistics report 2015-2019), by 365 days each year, and by the number of years that those emails need to be maintained, and the storage requirements become massive.

If any emails ever need to be obtained, it is vital that an email archive or backup can be searched. In the case of standard backups, that is likely to be an incredibly long process. Backups were not created to be searched and finding the right backup alone can be almost impossible, let alone finding all emails sent to, or received from, a specific company or person. Backups have their uses, but they are not suitable for companies for email retention purposes.

For that, an email archive is necessary. Email archives contain structured email data that can easily be reviewed and searched. If ever an eDiscovery request is received, finding all email correspondence is a quick and simple task. Since many email archives are cloud based, they also do not require large and expensive op-premises storage resources. Emails are stored in the cloud, with the space provided by the service supplier.

ArcTitan is a cost-effective, quick and easy-to-manage email archiving solution supplied by TitanHQ that meets the needs of all businesses and enables them to adhere with all email retention laws in the United States.

ArcTitan includes a variety of security protections to ensure stored data is kept 100% secure and confidential, with email data encrypted in transit and storage, replicated and backed up to ensure constant availability. As opposed to many email archiving solutions, ArcTitan is fast. The solution can process 200 emails per second from your email server and archived emails can be retrieved instantly though a a browser or Outlook plugin. Emails can be archived from any location, whether in the office or on the go via a laptop or tablet. There are no restrictions on storage space or the number of users and the solution can be scaled up to meet the needs of companies of all sizes.

To find out more about ArcTitan, get in touch with the TitanHQ team today.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How does email archiving work?

Email archiving involves sending an exact copy of a message outside the email system for long term storage. The messages are usually deduplicated and compressed to save on storage space and are indexed prior to archiving to ensure the archive can be rapidly searched. Email archiving solutions typically have end-to-end encryption to ensure messages cannot be intercepted and the emails are maintained in a tamper-proof repository and can be quickly retrieved on demand.

Is email archiving necessary?

Emails must be retained for compliance and need to be produced quickly for audits and e-discovery. Email recovery is far faster with an email archive. Most businesses have important data stored in email accounts that is stored nowhere else. That data is at risk if it is not sent to an archive. In the event of a ransomware attack that also encrypts backups, email data could be lost forever or cost millions to recover. The regulatory fines for loss of email data can be astronomical. Data loss is not possible with an email archive.

Is email archiving expensive?

Email archiving in the cloud is a low-cost solution that allows businesses to retain a tamper-proof copy of all messages to meet compliance requirements and for disaster recovery. An email archive saves on mail server storage space, which will increase performance. When you factor in productivity improvements and the reduced time producing emails to resolve customer complaints, for audits, and E-discovery requests, an email archive is money well spent.

Is email archiving the same as backing up email?

Email archiving and backing up email are not the same. Backups are intended for short term email storage for disaster recovery purposes. Entire mailboxes can quickly be restored from a backup if a mailbox is corrupted, deleted, or encrypted with ransomware. An email archive is a long-term email storage solution. In contrast to a backup, an archive can be rapidly searched allowing individual emails to be quickly found and recovered.

How much space can be saved with an email archive?

The amount of space saved by implementing an email archiving solution will vary from business to business, but typically businesses can reduce storage space by up to 80% by implementing an email archive and further, if emails ever need to be recovered, the archive can be rapidly searched, and emails retrieved in seconds.