Any information of value to your organization is a record. Snowy Mountain Consulting Ltd. specializes in designing and implementing cost effective strategies for managing information recorded both on paper and electronic mediums. The following is a simple explanation of Records Management.

 Vital Records
 Record Lifecycles

Vital Records

A vital record is information that defines legal, social, and financial status. Vital records are records considered of such extreme importance, that their loss would make the ongoing existence or operations of an organization impossible. Information deemed vital is preserved indefinitely. As a result of being kept forever, vital records are often transitioned from one media type to another as improvements in storage technology are invented.

Examples of Vital Records within Industrial Societies

  • Incorporation Papers
  • Legal Charters
  • Corporate Shares and Ownership Documents
  • Deeds, Leases, and Land Title Documents
  • Accounts Receivables and Payables, Loans
  • Contracts, Personal Records
  • Maps, Engineering Drawings, Patent Applications, Copyrights
  • Retention and Disposition Schedules
  • Lists of Vital Records

Examples of Vital Records within Aboriginal Societies

  • Traditions passed on from elders to children
  • Drawings and ancient scripts on caves walls and trees
  • Ceremonial costumes and dances
  • Language

Increasingly courts are recognizing the legitimacy of such aboriginal vital records and significant efforts are being made to preserve them with great impact on land claim negotiations.


A record is information used in ongoing operations of an organizations. Records are documentation of any kind that contains knowledge of historical events.

Examples of Records

  • Sales Receipts, Purchase Orders, Contracts
  • Regulatory Filings
  • Emergency Planning and Disaster Recovery Guides
  • Communications in the forms of Letters, Memos, Faxes, E-Mails, Web Pages, Database Elements that record a decision, state a fact or request an action
  • ISO Manuals and Work Procedures
  • Safety and Operational Standards

Record Lifecycles

Records have a four-stage lifecycle. The four-stage lifecycle is generally recognized as being Creation, Active Use, Inactive Use, and optionally Destruction.

Records are typically organized into collections called records series by clustering similar information together. Business processes called retention and disposition schedules control record series lifecycles. Retention and disposition schedules define the criteria that must be satisfied for a record to move from one stage to another.

All organizations are unique in their requirements of managing records and no one strategy is globally applicable. Management strategies are influenced by federal, provincial and local legislation, regulations and traditions. Style of organizational management, aversion or alternately acceptance of risk, along with financial, technological, human and storage resources are also major influences that shape retention and disposition schedules.

Many organizations have multiple records series for identical information based on the length of time the information is of operational value. Some information while critical for a short period of time is summarized in end of period reports such as end of day, end of week, monthly, quarterly and yearly reports. Information also commonly flows from one group to another during industrial, decision and business processes. Planning for and managing these diverse situations requires careful investigation and analysis. 


A record in today's business environment is typically fixed on various media and by multiple means. Some examples of media are Paper, Velum, Optical Laser Disks, CDRom, DVD, Microfilm, Microfiche and Electronic. Electronic files are often also further classified by the application that created them such a MicroStation, AutoCad, MS Word, HTML or perhaps just E-Mail. It
is not uncommon to have so-called original documents in both paper and electronic form with copies spanning continents if not the globe. The proliferation of e-mail has made it easier than ever to consult with colleagues in far flung locals spreading versions of contract, proposals, memos and letters to multiple computer servers and e-mail folders.

Many organizations believe that everyone keeping everything is the safest and most inexpensive policy. In fact, this could not be further from the truth. When organizations total up the real costs of operating and staffing computer centers, equipment capital costs of computer servers, tape drives and offsite storage they find that this information explosion is in fact quite expensive and negatively affects their financial bottom line. Storage of identical electronic files rapidly becomes a policy of never deleting anything because it might be important.  Even small organizations who just dump everything on a local computer hard fail to realize that out of sight - out of mind is most certainly false economy.

Beyond the management and costs of operating the computer systems and e-mail servers, who is to say who has the original copy if there are no policies.  

A simple well planned approach that ensures:

  • that any person originating an internal communication keeps the original,
  • any person receiving an internal communication keeps it as long as required to perform any requested action and optionally issue a confirmation that the action was performed,
  • all external communications received are only kept by the primary recipient and any others specifically requested to take some action, 

is usually quite effective if managed by a multiple records series with suitable retention schedules.

Appropriate management of records within an organization yields tangible efficiencies that can be measured. Snowy Mountain Consulting Ltd. has both the skills and resources to help your organization reduce its paper and electronic information overload, while streamlining and standardizing the routing and storage of all forms of information.

Contact us to find out more about implementing appropriate records management systems within your organization.

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