Digital Records Policies and Guidelines

The State Archives of North Carolina has developed a comprehensive set of policies, guidelines, and best practice documents to help agencies and local governments address electronic records in their office. These documents are designed to help agencies and government conform to the records retention and disposition requirements set forth by the State Archives of North Carolina.

Records Management Tutorials

Records Management Tutorials

These tutorials deal with managing electronic records. For more records management tutorials, visit the online tutorials page

eDiscovery & Trustworthy Digital Public Records

eDiscovery & Trustworthy Digital Public Records

Guidelines for Managing Trustworthy Digital Public Records

This document provides guidance to state, county, and municipal government agencies for establishing methods and procedures for creating and maintaining authentic records in digital formats according to the type of records produced and the length of time the records should be retained. These guidelines are designed to ensure the admissibility of an agency’s electronic records into evidence in a court of law. A critical need by government agencies for more efficient methods of creation, storage, and retrieval of public records has led to the adoption of varied software and information technology systems for creating, managing, and storing records in a digital format. While the advantages of such systems are many, the complexity of safeguarding the integrity of records has increased, requiring greater attention to issues relating to security, accuracy, reliability, and accountability. These guidelines provide all levels of government within North Carolina direction in establishing methods and procedures for creating or maintaining trustworthy records produced by information technology systems.

Sample Electronic Records and Imaging Policy for Use by Local and State Agencies

The North Department of Cultural Resources requires any agency that images its records or maintains electronic records with retention periods of ten or more years to create and sign an Electronic Records and Imaging Policy. The Electronic Records Policy is designed to be used as a self‐evaluation tool to ensure that electronic records produced by state, county, and municipal agencies are able to be retained for the designated retention period, and are created, reproduced, and otherwise managed in accordance with the above guidelines and with other guidance produced by the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. The Electronic Records and Imaging Policy replaces the former Self-Warranty Form.

Information Governance

Information Governance

Metadata as a Public Record in North Carolina: Best Practices Guidelines for Its Retention and Disposition

This document is intended to offer guidance to government employees about the management and retention of metadata under North Carolina’s public records laws and state and federal discovery rules for civil litigation. The goal is to provide information and guidance for public employees to understand their responsibilities and liabilities related to metadata.

File Format Guidelines for Management and Long-Term Retention of Electronic Records

This document provides detailed information about appropriate file formats for state and local agencies responsible for maintaining electronic records long term. It is a companion document to File Formats for Transfer of Electronic Records to the State Archives of North Carolina, which is intended for agencies transferring records into the State Archives Digital Repository. See the State Archives Digital Repository page for more information about policies and tools for transferring data into the Digital Repository.

Best Practices for File-Naming

Naming Digital Files, Part 1: Why is File Naming Important? (YouTube video)

Naming Digital Files, Part 2: How to Change a File Name (YouTube video)

Naming Digital Files, Part 3: What Not to Do When Naming Files (YouTube video)

Naming Digital Files, Part 4: Best Practices for File Naming (YouTube video)

The document and video series above can help make you and your office more efficient with a few simple rules for file naming. Just like paper files, electronic files need to be well-organized and labeled correctly so that they are identifiable and accessible by all employees. This is especially important for government offices in order to comply with legal requirements to ensure the availability, integrity, accessibility, and, if appropriate, the confidentiality of public records. G.S §132-8.1 provides that each agency shall establish and maintain an active, continuing program for the economical and efficient management of records of that agency.

Digital Communications (E-mail, text messaging, etc.)

Digital Communications (E-mail, text messaging, etc.)

E-mail as a Public Record in North Carolina: A Policy for Its Retention and Disposition

Guidelines for E-mail as a Public Record in North Carolina: Tips and Tricks for Using Microsoft Exchange Software to Manage E-mail

Best Practices for Electronic Communications Usage in North Carolina: Text and Instant Message

Best Practices for Electronic Communications Usage in North Carolina: Guidelines for Implementing a Strategy for Text and Instant Messages

The documents above provide guidance on managing electronic communications as public records, including e-mails, text messages, and instant messages.

Best Practices for Local Government Social Media Usage in North Carolina

Best Practices for State Agency Social Media Usage in North Carolina - Revised March 2012

These best practice documents provide information about legal and appropriate use of social media by state agencies and local government. Responsibilities of PIOs are outlined, and a sample Social Media Policy is provided.

Digital Imaging

Digital Imaging

Sample Electronic Records and Imaging Policy for Use by Local and State Agencies

The North Department of Cultural Resources requires that any agency that images its records as a part of its records retention practices create and sign an Electronic Records and Imaging Policy. The Electronic Records Policy is also a requirement for agencies maintaining electronic records which have retention periods of ten or more years. The Electronic Records and Imaging Policy replaces the former Self-Warranty Form.

Request for Disposal of Original Records Duplicated by Electronic Means (local government only)

The Request for Disposal of Original Records Duplicated by Electronic Means form is used by local governments to request approval from the Department of Cultural Resources to dispose of non-permanent paper records which have been scanned, entered into databases, or otherwise duplicated through digital imaging or other conversion to a digital environment. This form does not apply to records which have been microfilmed or photocopied, or to records with a permanent retention.

Guidelines for Digital Imaging Systems

This series is intended for state and local agencies considering an imaging (digitization) project and adoption of an imaging system. It was published August 2003.The series is divided into five chapters: 

  • Phase 1: Project Planning
  • Phase 2: Technology Assessment and Selection
  • Phase 3: System Implementation
  • Suggested Reading
  • Scanning Glossary

Human-Readable Preservation Duplicates

Offices with permanent records shall create a preservation duplicate of those records as described in §132-8.2: "Preservation duplicates shall be durable, accurate, complete and clear..." It is the Department's policy that preservation duplicates should be either a paper or microfilm copy of the original records. Permanent records with certain characteristics require preservation duplicates that are human-readable. The "Human-Readable Preservation Duplicates" policy outlines these characteristics and appropriate formats for human-readable preservation duplicates.

Conversion of Electronic Records to Microfilm

This document describes the fee-based service that the State Archives is able to offer state and local agencies for converting digital records to archival microfilm for low-cost, long-term storage and access. This service is available for both imaged records and born-digital records. The document above indicates which records are eligible, requirements for submission, and the results agencies should expect.

Checklist for Scanning Contracts

This document provides a list of considerations for state and local government agencies as they negotiate contracts with scanning vendors.

For tutorials on the Sample Electronic Records and Imaging Policy and on implementing a digital imaging program, see the Records Management Tutorials section of this page. 

Cloud Computing and Storage

Cloud Computing and Storage

Best Practices for Cloud Computing: Records Management Considerations

This document is a topical overview intended to provide information to state and local governments about common cloud computing concerns with regards to their records. Topics included: state agency-specific compliance issues, understanding and negotiating the terms of the service level agreement, performance and monitoring, service interruptions, costs, security and privacy, removing data from the cloud and avoiding vendor lock-in, and e-discovery guidelines.

Global Shared Storage Guidelines

As employees utilize more server space in order to collaborate and created projects, increasingly, they are using shared storage for collaboration and access. This is guidance regarding the value of managing a shared drive, and provides best practice techniques for more efficient management of a shared storage and records.

One Drive for Business: Best Practices for Usage

OneDrive for Business is a personal online storage space in the cloud, provided for employees using Office365. This document offers guidance and best practices for the use of One Drive for Business by public service employees, with the goal of maintaining continued accessibility of records created in the transaction of public business. 

Digital Preservation Best Practices for State and Local Government

Digital Preservation Best Practices for State and Local Government

DCR Digital Preservation Policy

This document outlines the operation, management, and scope of the North Carolina digital preservation program, established by the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources in accordance with state law that authorizes the State Archives of North Carolina and State Library of North Carolina to collect and preserve state government information for public access. The program, which supports the preservation and access of authentic digital records throughout their entire lifecycle, provides for strategic decisions about technology and workflows as well as formal structures whereby those records are made available to citizens as part of North Carolina’s heritage.

Best Practices for Digital Permanence

Electronic records have a life cycle that includes the creation, management, use, and disposition or longer term retention of the digital object. Preserving a digital record throughout this life cycle presents unique challenges for records creators and users. This document discusses the threats to digital materials and strategies for digital records preservation and access, covering the following topics: relevant North Carolina statutes, discussion on the permanence of electronic records, threats to digital records, types of digital media, and how to preserve a digital record through its life cycle.

Archival Process for Data and Image Preservation: The Management and Preservation of Digital Media

This document serves to provide guidance and best practices to both the creators and the custodians of electronic records who wish to maintain the information over time. 

Protect Your DVDs and CDs

DVDs and CDs are not a recommended preservation format. They are, however, adequate for everyday access copies for government records. The document above provides technical information for making your office's DVDs and CDs last longer. Published April - June 2003.

Digital Signatures

Digital Signatures

Digital Signature Policy Guidelines

This document serves as a policy guide for the use of electronic signatures. It provides information on the following: State and Federal legislation on the use of electronic records and e-signatures; definition of e-signatures; expectations and goals for instituting an e-signature system; potential challenges including security and privacy; cloud storage; and electronic records management; business and legal considerations

DocuSign® How-to Guide

This document serves as a how-to guide for the use of DocuSign® e-signature platform. This guide is specific to the vendor product, DocuSign®.

Website and Social Media Archiving

Website and Social Media Archiving

Guidelines for Maintaining and Preserving Records of Web-Based Activities

Collection Procedures for State Government Web Sites Using Archive-It

Program for Maintaining and Preserving Records of Web-Based Activities

Standard for Automated Web Site Capture

Procedures for Manual Collection of Web-Based Activities

Web Site Content Assessment Table

Web Site Description Form and Instructions 

The State Archives teams with the State Library to run a well-established and nationally recognized web archiving program for state agency websites. The web archiving program is available to any state agencies wishing to participate. The documents above describe processes specific to this web archiving program, as well as general guidance for the management and preservation of websites by both state agencies and local governments. 

North Carolina State Government Web Site Archives

Visit the Web Site Archives public access portal at the link above. Users can search archived websites of North Carolina going back over a decade.

North Carolina State Government Social Media Archives (Beta)

Visit the beta version of the Social Media Archives public access portal at the link above. This new archiving program captures state government social media accounts in a new and more efficient manner. Currently, a core of state agencies and offices are participating in a pilot program.