Monday, February 21, 2011

Alfresco Test Day 10 - Freezing and Unfreezing Records

The term "freezing" records is used by the US Department of Defence (DOD) to refer to the practice of putting routine disposals on hold for specific reasons. The holds most of us are familiar with is if an organization is involved in litigation or discovery. The court will order that certain records and files be maintained so that they may be accessible during discovery.

E-discovery is becoming a huge side-business in the RIM world, as it can become complex and expensive. From the point of view of the litigant, e-records can be a fruiftul source of candid and embarrassing revelations of corporate intent. Very often the costs of e-discovery outstrips the cost of settling, because e-records today are often unmanaged, unorganized, un-indexed. A business can reduce potential e-discovery costs by managing their e-records as stringently as they have historically managed their paper records. Records (electronic or not) should be routinely destroyed according to the approved schedule.

Anyways, back to freezing and unfreezing. A business manager should be able to put a freeze on a document or record that could potentially be part of a known lawsuit. In addition, Freedom of Information Request in the public sector impose a "freeze" on records requested by the public. The test today is to see if a freeze can be placed, and if so, will it prevent the disposal of the record?

To conduct this test, I created two new categories with corresponding folders, and put several files under each folder. I declared all documents as records, then froze one document in each folder.

Alfresco prompted me to state a reason for the freeze.

The result is that I could not cut-off or destroy the folder while a freeze was in place. Alfresco simply removed the icons from my use. I was given the option, when a folder contained a frozen document, to freeze the entire folder. Alfresco allows the user to freeze a record, folder, or entire category.

The freeze icon was replaced by an unfreeze icon.

When I unfroze the records, icons reappared allowing me to cut-off and destroy the record.

I rate this test an enthusiastic PASS

Records Manager
  • Freezing and unfreezing will be effecive only as much as the user base is aware of its' use.
  • Rather than depending on business users to identify related records at time of disposal, freezes allow you the flexibility to apply when known. This should prevent inadvertent disposals.
  • I suggest you prepare a list of existing freezes and confirm with business users that the related documents are protected from disposal.
Business User
  • Besides your obligation to make the records available for a litigation or freedom of information request, remember to put the disposal on hold, or frozen.
  • Use your RIM professional for advice and support during e-discovery, and involve them early.
It would be great to have a drop-down field for "reason for freeze", to control language and allow reports separated out by freeze reason. For instance, a large litigation hold could affect ranges and records and if the reason is all described the same, it is simpler to lift the freeze when litigation is resolved.

Testing DOD 5015.2 Features C2., C2., relating to the GARP principle of Retention.