Deleting Documents with a Record of Destruction: Convert to Offline Documents

Let’s be clear – FileHold will never delete your documents without your permission. FileHold ensures they are protected in their original state in perpetuity. FileHold’s version control preserves the original while newer versions are made more accessible. However, just because FileHold can store documents forever, it does not mean organizations should:  IT best practices recommends that once a document is no longer needed, it should be removed at the earliest convenience. Each organization has its own operational reasons, industry practices, and regulatory obligations that define how long a document must be kept as part of document’s lifecycle.

In some circumstances, the organization may want or need to create a record of destruction when deleting a document. In addition to details such as when or why the document was deleted, some information from that document may also need to be maintained: the audit history, metadata, ownership, etc. The legal sector, for instance, keeps record of the destroyed documents, associated metadata, and records of access as a standard practice. FileHold offers a simple tool to preserve this information while removing the document: “Convert to Offline Document”.

Before detailing how this conversion works, let’s look at how FileHold deletes documents. Remember, only an authorized user can access the delete function at all – the user must be a member of a group with the express right to delete documents (lower-level users, like Document Publisher & Delete, Publisher & Delete, and Organizers will only be able to delete their own documents, or versions of documents they own; Organizers & Delete and above will be able to delete other users’ documents). Also, FileHold provides a “Record” classification for documents where only administrators are able to access delete at all – users have no ability to modify or delete records.

FileHold deletes documents in two stages. The first is a “soft” delete, where the deleted document is removed from the client but still exists in the FileHold server and can be recovered. The second stage, the “hard” delete, deletes the document from server, where it is no longer recoverable. The time between stages, where a document is scheduled for deletion, is controlled by the Permanent Document Deletion Scheduling option, set in the Full Administration menu (System Configuration>Settings>General). Once complete, the document will be deleted from the system, along with user access to the metadata and text in the Full Text Search (FTS) index. Once deleted, it is not recoverable through FileHold: while there is a chance it could be retrieved forensically, this process is not predictable, repeatable, or reliable. In other words, if any information related to a document must be maintained, organizations are advised to use another process than delete.

Convert to Offline Document” is the perfect tool to preserve the audit record, metadata, or any of the other details FileHold stores relating to documents but not the document itself. An Offline Document is one of three classifications for files in FileHold, alongside Documents and Records. An Offline Document, however, does not have an electronic file attached to it but does have associated metadata, version properties, and audit record. An Offline Document is an ideal solution for where you need to hold information but not the file. The FileHold company uses these for everything from customer records to employee leave requests: after all, why fill out a PDF when you can just complete the metadata fields directly in FileHold and skip the PDF form?

When a Document or Record is converted to an Offline Document, the electronic file is purged while the audit trail, schema, and metadata are preserved in the new Offline Document. It is controlled just like any other FileHold Document or Record: a user must have visibility to the schema, cabinet, and folder to see or search for the newly converted document. Note, “Convert to Offline Document” does not go through FileHold’s standard soft/hard delete phases; the document is non-recoverable through the software.

Offline documents are also an opportunity to adjust the preserved metadata. Sometimes, new fields need to be added (reason for destruction, closing date, etc) or existing fields need to be purged as they contain sensitive or personal information. In addition to converting to Offline, the schema can also be changed. When a document’s schema is changed, common metadata fields between the two documents are transferred. Therefore, the organization could elect to create a new schema for destroyed documents which preserves only the critical metadata from the preserved document, removes the extraneous fields, and allows new vital information to be added.

What makes FileHold so powerful is its flexibility to match your needed processes. In many cases, all your organization needs to do is delete the document when it gets to the end of its lifecycle, or follow a typical retention policy to have FileHold do that automatically. But when more granular detail is needed to capture process details about your destroyed documents, FileHold has an out-of-the-box solution ready to go.

To learn more about how FileHold can preserve documents, audit trail information, or both, contact us at [email protected].

Chris Oliver

Chris Oliver brings his twenty years of experience in management in the entertainment industry to FileHold Systems as the Client Training and Retention Advocate. To learn more about how FileHold DMS can work for you, contact him at [email protected].