Electronic Records

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Computers and other electronic devices create many of the records we use today. These records, although electronic in format, are the same as records in other formats.

Electronic Records

Electronic records show how you conduct business, make decisions and carry out your work. They are evidence of decisions and actions and are subject to the same retention and disposition requirements as their paper counterparts. Fundamental records management principles apply to all record formats including electronic records.

The technical nature of electronic records makes managing them a challenge. Electronic records are created in a variety of formats including email, voicemail, webpages, word-processed documents, spreadsheets, databases, digital images, and video and audio files. They can be stored on departmental shared drives, hard drives, UBbox, removable media (e.g., DVD, CD, thumb drive) and an increasing number of other media. Electronic records are under constant threat from technological obsolescence - the rapid advancement of computer technology that can render records inaccessible due to lack of planning.

Creating and Managing Electronic Records

There are ways to minimize the risks inherent in digital materials and promote long-term preservation and future access.

Guidelines for Creating and Managing Electronic Records

  • Select hardware, software and file formats that offer the best opportunity for digital materials to remain easily accessible over time
  • Ensure that digital materials carry information that will help verify their integrity
    • Include the name of the office or person responsible and their title
  • Organize digital materials into logical groupings
    • Consider categories that reflect the way you work, your activities, responsibilities, procedures or thematic areas and are consistent with way paper records are organized
    • Create electronic folders and subfolders, arranged hierarchically from the general to the specific
  • Identify digital materials using file naming conventions
    • Use meaningful names to identify content and make it easier to find
    • Maintain both the content of the record as well as the associated metadata that define or document the record's content, context and structure
    • File electronic records so that they are searchable, retrievable and accessible in the normal course of business as well as for audits, legal proceedings and historical research
  • Consider additional safeguards for electronic records that contain restricted data (i.e., information protected by federal and state laws and regulations and university policy) to manage risk related to confidentiality, integrity and availability
  • Maintain and dispose of electronic records in accordance with record retention schedules
  • Protect electronic records from unauthorized action by restricting access to computers and using passwords or dual authentication
  • Back up files frequently or store records on a server that is regularly backed up to protect digital materials from accidental loss or corruption
  • Guard against hardware and software obsolescence with regular upgrades
  • Create and maintain written policies and procedures that accurately document the overall records management system, including electronic records

Electronic Signatures

An electronic signature is data, in digital form, attached to an electronically transmitted document as verification of the sender’s intent to sign the document. This is the equivalent of a handwritten signature, and is used to confirm approval of an action or the terms of a document.

While some segments of the campus are operating from an alternate work location, the use of electronic signatures is acceptable for internal transactions, approvals and authorizations. SUNY does not currently accept electronic signatures as legally binding on state contracts and appointment letters.

Best Practices for Using Electronic Signatures

  • Consult the Approval Authority Policy to determine the approval requirements for specific situations.
  • Verify the authenticity of an electronic signature by using the email, system or form that requires the employee to be logged in under their own credentials.
    • Where employee log-in using their credentials is not possible, a scanned version of the actual signature is acceptable. The signor must maintain a hard copy with a physical signature during this time.
  • Do not attach the electronic signature of someone other than yourself unless you have express written consent to do so. Consent must be maintained in your records.

For further guidance on attaching a digital or electronic signature to documents, please consult your departmental IT support.

Digitized Records

Digitization is the process of converting information into a computer-readable format.

The SUNY Records Retention and Disposition Policy provides SUNY campuses the authority to digitize all records, with very limited exceptions, and destroy the paper files prior to the end of their retention period.  

The UB Record Retention and Disposition Policy provides additional guidance on digitizing records.

SUNY Requirements for Digitization

  • The images will accurately and completely reproduce all the information in the records being imaged
  • The imaged records will not be rendered unusable due to changing or proprietary technology before their retention and preservation requirements are met
  • The imaging system will not permit additions, deletions or changes to the images without leaving a record of such additions, deletions or changes
  • Designees of SUNY will be able to authenticate the imaged records by competent testimony or affidavit which will include the manner or method by which tampering or degradation of the reproduction is prevented

Contact An Expert

Carrie Woodrow.

Carrie A. Woodrow


Policy, Compliance and Internal Controls

420 Crofts Hall

Phone: (716) 645-1786

Email: carriewo@buffalo.edu