Feb 28, 2016
Periodically as I give seminars and consult with clients, I am reminded that many companies have very stringent e-mail retention policies. Some of them prevent employees from holding on to mail older than a certain number of days anywhere in Outlook. Often 90 days is the limit. So PST files might be forbidden, and Exchange-based folders might automatically be stripped of all mail older than the threshold.
Is This Good?
I have mixed opinions about this, but mostly lean away from such stringent policies. I realize they make litigation against the company harder to do, but it seems to me they are preventing people from doing their jobs. E-mail communication is such an important part of every job role, and referring to “what was said” in previous discussions can be business critical.
So I look for other ways that such employees can save the information in their e-mails and still adhere to their company’s rules.
The standard way is to tell the employees to save the e-mail as a text file on their hard drive. Of course, that’s incredibly cumbersome to do for each and every e-mail (and that’s probably the point—it’s a somewhat cynical instruction from their company to discourage saving e-mails).
One method you might consider is to save it to OneNote. OneNote has a built in way to import messages. You have to set it up first, but once you do you simply forward the Outlook message to a special address and it gets saved as a OneNote page. Of course, this only makes sense if you are only saving occasional messages—it’s not a bulk solution. You’ll end up with thousands of OneNote pages otherwise. Here’s a writeup on how to do it:
Another solution is to use the Adobe Acrobat application. This IS a bulk solution, since you can convert an entire Outlook folder or a large range of selected messages, and they all are saved into one PDF file. Using this you can even pick up and convert e-mail attachments into the same PDF file (this is settable). And you can add to existing PDF archive files, which makes an ongoing incremental archive strategy practical. To do this, you of course have to purchase and have the Acrobat application installed on your computer—it’s not a standard application in most companies. And your copy of Outlook must be unlocked enough to allow add-ins to be installed (during Acrobat install, it adds new buttons to Outlook’s ribbons). Here’s more information on using Acrobat to archive messages:
8/22/2018 UPDATE: Looks like link above has been moved to:
If you cannot install Acrobat, there are other ways to save e-mails into PDFs, but they are nowhere as convenient as the tools the Acrobat application provides.