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How should I manage my Sent items folder?


Every time you send an email a copy is automatically stored in your Sent Items folder. This is so that, if necessary, you can check that something was sent or remind yourself of what you sent.

While users may sort, edit and delete unwanted mail in their other mail folders, the Sent Items folder is usually left untouched. This has meant that many users have literally thousands of messages in their Sent items folder which will never be looked at or needed ever again.

This has raised the following concerns:

  • There are, literally, several million emails on the AU email systems that will never be looked at again that are not only taking up valuable disc space but are being regularly backed-up and carefully retained centrally. This represents a heavy and unnecessary cost.
  • Particularly in the case of staff, there are likely to be compliance implications. Data Protection law states that personal data must be kept only for as long as it is necessary. An unstructured and ever-growing Sent Items folder implies that the owner may not be taking their responsibilities in this regard seriously.
  • In the event of a Freedom of Information request a large, unmodified Sent folder makes it much more difficult for the member of staff and the University to ascertain quickly and unambiguously whether specific information is being held.

The University Management Information Committee have therefore decided that from 30 September 2008 , any email older than 18 months, stored in the Sent Items folder only, will be automatically deleted. This will affect all computing accounts: staff, student, office and web accounts.

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How should I manage my Sent items long-term?

You will need to manage your sent items on a regular basis to make sure you do not lose messages you need to keep.

Responsibility for retaining email is as follows:

  • messages between AU staff - responsibility lies with the sender
  • messages to external contacts - responsibility lies with the sender
  • external messages received by only one recipient at AU - responsibility lies with the recipient
  • external messages received by more than one recipient at AU - responsibility lies with the member of AU staff responsible for the particular function to which the message relates

In some cases a recipient may wish to retain a message as proof of a decision or transaction, at least until the process is complete or the matter resolved

We recommend that:

  • after sending a message you check your sent items to make sure it has gone
  • you immediately delete messages you do not need, for example personal emails, thanks or availability for meetings etc
  • if you need to keep the message as proof of mailing or because you require a response, refile it into a sensibly named folder, perhaps using the same folder as for incoming emails on the same topic. In this way you can view complete email threads from the same place. Alternatively you could use a 'pending' folder. Then when the task is completed or no longer of relevance you can delete them
  • you ensure you comply with the University's Policy on the use of email

If you or your department require training on Email Management please contact Julie Archer, University Records Manager

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