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Walkthrough Wednesdays

What is Your Voicemail Retention Policy?

Both lawyers and IT professionals are well aware of the increased importance of electronic documents in litigation.  How does voicemail fit into the discussion?

Document retention used to be about paper – lots of paper – contracts, HR forms, tax returns and many other categories of business documents.  But unless you’re writing a thank you letter to your grandmother for that annual birthday sweater, who uses pen and paper anymore?

Forget about Twitter, Facebook, and text messages for a second, let’s consider the explosion of corporate email communications over the last 20 years, as well as the sheer volume of work being done in Word, PowerPoint and other applications.  Storing, managing, and accessing all of these electronic documents in a data center is a concern for any business, regardless of whether there is an e-discovery request or not. (Hmm…this data center business seems like an opportunity for Cisco.)

Which brings us to voicemail.  In the old, old days, voice messages were recorded on magnetic tape and erased as new messages were left on that tape.  But in today’s unified messaging environments, voice messages are digitized, sent to email inboxes, and stored on servers – all of which makes voicemail easily discoverable.

Yet voicemail discoverability is complex.  Unlike e-documents, which generally have a subject, creator, or sender associated with them that allows them to be tagged and searched, voice messages are stored without such identifying information.  So a request for voice messages associated during a discovery process usually means that someone must listen to each message, one at a time, and listen carefully for relevant content.

So what do you do about voicemail retention?  What is your organization’s policy?  Do you have unified messaging, such as Cisco Unity, where voice messages are stored on the same server as emails and fax messages?  Have you moved to a solution where you store voice messages on a separate server from emails, like Cisco Unity Connection?  Do you still use traditional voicemail to avoid some of these complex discovery issues?  How do you implement your organization’s retention policies?

Voicemail discovery is an area with few published best practices, but we have a great opportunity to share our ideas in a forum like this.  Let’s hear it!

Mark Gervase

UC Solutions Marketing


Hi everyone,

I've received a few emails on this topic, sent directly to me rather than through this community discussion. No surprise, I suppose. Document retention policy can be a private subject. The common thread among all the emails to me is..."what guidance can Cisco give me?" Unfortunately, we can't provide any guidance as to what an organization should do. Retention policy has to be decided on a company-by-company basis, and it needs to be decided by legal counsel. What we have done at Cisco is take a look at some of the compliance rules for electronic documents in regulated industries in the US like finance, healthcare, and education. It turns out that there are a number of features of Cisco Unity can help your organization comply with these regulations. We posted a summary and made it available to our Channel Partners so they can help you understand some of the complex issues and solutions. The document is here (CCO login required): Lastly, we only looked at these issues for the US. If you are dealing with a document retention policy outside of the US, we have yet to explore those issues.

So please, join in the conversation here. Its a great place to share your questions, horror stories, or successes with voicemail retention policy without giving too much away!


Mark Gervase

Unified Communications

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