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What Is Records Life Cycle?

By Marlene Garcia
Updated May 16, 2024
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A records life cycle outlines each phase of a document, from creation to destruction. It helps businesses and agencies plan for storage, protection, retrieval, and destruction of information at different stages. Records life cycle management systems typically control copious amounts of information in a convenient and safe manner.

Planning commonly takes place before records life cycle management processes are implemented. Incorporating procedures into daily routines keeps records under control and safe. This planning commonly includes techniques for collection, organization, maintenance, and disposal throughout the records life cycle.

The definition of records includes photos, graphics, maps, film, and tapes, both audio and visual. A record equates to anything that can be reproduced, usually with the aid of other equipment. It defines data from inside an organization or from outside sources, and a record may be deemed official or unofficial. Official records usually denote information with a designated lifespan.

Official records include financial documents of a public agency, along with any other information defined by law as a public record. Legal information that could be used in court might also fall under the classification of an official record that should be maintained. Laws in many jurisdictions mandate timelines for the preservation of official records, such as court records.

Records are created from e-mails, recorded telephone calls, printed documents, and other data showing how decisions evolved. Anything that might be useful to a business or organization in the future is usually retained according to its records life cycle. With advances in technology, entities commonly store records electronically to eliminate the need for paper storage areas.

Organizing information and determining its use factors into records life cycle management. A record should be cataloged or filed for easy retrieval when it is needed or requested. Forms, correspondence, and duplicate copies are typically stored using a filing system that is easy to understand and navigate.

These records also require a maintenance and protection plan, especially for data that represents valuable information with a permanent records life cycle. In many regions, records with historic value are archived in government repositories. Examples of these documents include birth and death records and presidential documents.

When data reaches the end of its life cycle, destruction is permitted. Disposal might be appropriate for draft documents or materials used to prepare official records. Duplicates might also be destroyed after the original has been preserved in some form. Some businesses use independent service providers to track a record’s life spans.

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