Businesses have more data at their disposal than ever before and the analytics firms are finding ever more imaginative ways of putting it to use. But while all that information can certainly bring a competitive edge, it can also bring big problems and liabilities if it is not handled with care. The SEC is not shy about handing out six, or even seven figure penalties to offenders. Don’t risk becoming just another statistic.
Archiving is mandatory
First, let’s get one thing clear. If your business is subject to SEC oversight, archiving web data is not optional. The SEC sees your website as the main conduit between your business and its clients. But that conduit is comprised of many channels, including web pages, webchats, social media posts and comments, even discussions over platforms like Facebook Messenger. All of this data needs to be archived in a particular way to meet regulatory requirements. Specifically, SEC rules state that it must be in its original format – in other words, PDFs and screenshots are unlikely to be good enough in most cases.
Archiving is different from a backup
A common misunderstanding is that if you already have backup procedures in place, that checks the archiving box, too. Unfortunately, that is seldom the case. Of course, it depends on the type of backup you perform, but most often, this is an emergency copy of your live data, saved in a simplified format and retained for a few days in case you suffer a sudden data loss and need to recover it. Archive data needs to be fully searchable, instantly accessible and retained for 3-6 years depending on the type and nature of the data and the industry sector in which you operate.
No different to paper records
Today, we send emails and instant messages instead of faxes and letters. Even commercial contracts are often finalized electronically. Under the circumstances, it is reasonable that business correspondence we type, even if it’s from our smartphone as a WhatsApp or Facebook message needs to be properly stored in its original form.
It amounts to exactly the same rules that we have lived with for paper correspondence for years, but it takes some getting used to. Obtaining professional support to ensure you are in compliance is a wise investment if you are in any doubt – the alternative could carry a cost, both financial and reputational, that does not bear thinking about.