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Data Retention

Data Retention: What, Why, and How

Data Retention is the management and regulation of how long an organization stores data, usually referring to customer data acquired via their service. Data retention policies typically determine a retention period, a set amount of time that customer data is stored within their system before deletion. They also set forth rules for what types of data are collected, as well as the consent and permissions required. For consumer protection, the federal government and multiple states enact legal regulatory requirements that also must be accounted for within a data retention policy.

Why are Data Retention policies important?

Financial Benefit

On the financial side, a trim and efficient data retention policy can save substantial amounts of money. Storage costs for an organization dealing with large amounts of data can be a significant expense, so the less needed, the better. So, having a policy that minimizes unnecessary data storage will save an organization in operating costs.

Because of the power data holds, special data retention requirements are set forth by governments to protect users’ data privacy and consent. You may already be familiar with a common example, HIPAA, dealing with medical information privacy. On the digital side, data retention laws and regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Sarbanes-Oxley Act (sox) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) determine legal requirements organizations must abide by regarding the handling of their personal data. These can deal with retention periods, developer access, and more. While regulatory compliance may add work or limit raw insight potential, these laws protect consumers to ensure ethical data management for all.


Incorporating effective data retention practices can improve your organization's operations as well. Defining proper classification and categorization of data helps maintain the most relevant insights and findings from data, excluding old or obsolete data sets. It can also integrate protocols for data backup, adding resilience to your system by keeping clear iterations to look back upon.

How to Create and Incorporate a Data Retention Policy

While it may seem daunting, creating a data retention policy specifically tailored to organization is simple, following these steps:

  1. Determine Legal Requirements: Depending on your organization and what services you provide, the regulations will vary, so the first step is to determine the bare minimum aspects you must incorporate to avoid legal ramifications.
  2. Add Desired Components: On top of the required components, your organization will most likely have more specifically-tailored aspects of your retention policy dealing with index lifecycle management, back up protocols, and more. Add these aspects to your design plan.
  3. Learn Available Functionality: Now that you know what you would like to implement, next is determining how. The different software and programs within your system should have Data Retention policy mechanisms built into them, so learn about what's available currently. If there are features or mechanisms missing, look into additions or services to help fill that.
  4. Integrate: All that's left now is to integrate your policy! Once the policy is in place and the systems are set up accordingly, monitor the system for the next few cycles to ensure proper integration, and make sure to consider the data retention policy when making major changes to your system.
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