Document Retention: Auto-Archiving & Auto-Deletion


Warning: Contact Complyfile Before Enabling

Complyfile recommends that you only switch on Document Retention: Auto-Archiving & Auto-Deletion after consultation with your Customer Success Representative at Complyfile.  This is to ensure that you configure things correctly and schedule for auto-archiving and auto-deletion the correct documents only.

‍ Document retention functionality is available to enterprise customers]

Why bother with document retention?

There's lots of reasons why it's worth bothering with document retention:
  • To help your Administrators in time savings. 
  • It also builds senior management and board confidence. They want to know they're complying with GDPR.
  • Under GDPR, it's important you hold on to documents for the right period of time. And then get rid of them when you no longer need to keep them.
This is easy to do within your Complyfile.
Turn on the document retention policy functionality within your Complyfile

Do you want even more control over documents you upload to your Complyfile?

If the answer's 'no', then no problem! Just leave things as they are.

If the answer's 'yes', then read on!

If so:
  • You enable document retention functionality in your Complyfile
  • You apply your offline Retention Policy to a Document Type in your Complyfile. (E.g. retain Vetting Letters for 365 days, then schedule for Auto-Archiving and subsequent Auto-Deletion).
  • You upload a document (e.g. a Vetting Letter) to your Complyfile
  • Give that document the correct Document Type. That Document Type should have your Retention Policy against it (e.g. 'Vetting Letters').
  • Your Complyfile knows to schedule this document to Auto-Archive in [X] days.
  • Your Complyfile knows to Auto-Delete this document after [Y] days in the Archive.
  • Organisation Administrators of your Complyfile get an email notification. They get this 30 days before the 365 days are up. Why? To remind you that the Vetting Letter will Auto-Archive after a total of 365 days since you uploaded it.
  • 365 days after you uploaded the Vetting Letter, your document is Auto-Archived.
  • [X] days later, the Vetting Letter is Auto-Deleted.
  • History Records are automatically created along the way.

What's relevant in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)?

Relevant GDPR articles
  • Article 17: Right to erasure (‘right to be forgotten’)
  • Article 24: Responsibility of the controller (demonstrating GDPR technical compliance)
  • Article 25: Data protection by design and default
  • Article  30: Records of processing activities

How do you benefit by deploying Data Retention functionality?

The volume and complexity of your volunteer data is increasing daily. Effectively managing or governing this information is important because you need to:
  • Comply proactively with regulations and internal policies. Those regulations and policies make you keep content for a minimum period of time
  • Reduce your risk in the event of litigation or a security breach. How? By permanently deleting old content that you’re no longer required to keep.
  • Help your organization to share knowledge effectively and be more agile. How? By ensuring that your team work only with content that’s current and relevant to them.
A retention policy in Complyfile helps to achieve these goals. Managing content commonly requires two actions:
  • Retaining content so that it can’t be permanently deleted before the end of the retention period.
  • Deleting content permanently at the end of the retention period.
With a retention policy, you can ultimately:
  • Decide proactively whether to 
    • retain content
    • delete content, or
    • both – retain and then delete the content.
  • Apply a single policy to the entire organization or just specific users.
  • Apply a policy to all content or just content meeting certain conditions

Retaining content for a specific period of time

With a retention policy, you can retain content indefinitely.  Or you can keep it for a specific number of days, months, or years.

Does your organisation have a Document Retention Policy?

No - or not sure

If the answer if 'no', or you're not sure; then go back and check with your board or senior management.
Remember, Document Retention is a blend of IT, Data Protection, legal and compliance.
So it's worth ensuring your team is all on the same pageThis is not an area for solo-runs.


If the answer is 'yes', you do have a Document Retention Policy, let's look at applying it to documents you store in your Complyfile.

How does it work?

There's two concepts to understand.
1. Auto-Archiving; and
2. Auto-Deletion

For those interested, there are 3 main jobs that your Complyfile will do each night:

  • Check each document to see if we should Auto-Archive it
  • Check each document to see if we should Auto-Delete it
  • Check to see which documents we should reference in an email to Administrators 30 day before Auto-Archiving


This is the automatic movement of a document from the main part of your Document Store, to another area. That other area we call your Archive

As you're automatically moving a document to your Archive, we call this Auto-Archiving.

For example, if you want to automatically archive (Auto-Archive) a document after say 1 year, now you can do so:
  • You simply set a period of 365 days as the period to hold the document.
  • On the 365th day, the document will automatically move to your Archive.

What happens when a document moves to the Archive?

Well, it sits there for the length of time you want documents to be in your Archive, before its automatic deletion. (Not quite 'gathering dust', but you get the idea).

What changes in the document uploader?

Document Uploader - New Fields

You will see new fields in the Document Uploader. They appear when you turn on Auto-Archiving and Auto-Deletion.

Reference ID

This a free text field. You can type any reference number into it.

This is useful to capture information relating to a third party system.

E.g. the National Vetting Bureau reference number: Vetting Request ABC001-20190426-00765:

This is great from a data protection point of view.

Why? It means that when you delete a document, you can still keep a Reference ID for that document.

So you can:

  • trace the document back to its source with another organisation
  • without keeping the document any longer than is necessary.

This balances competing interests:

  • of deleting documents
  • while being able to identify where it came from if there's a query in the future.

This Reference ID will also appear in a column in: Reports > Data Export > Volunteer > Documents > Excel file.

How long does a document sit in the Archive?

That's up to you.
You can set one default period of time for documents to stay in your Archive. This period will apply to all documents in your Archive.
So once they are in your Archive you can decide to keep them for 7 days. Or 30 days. Or any other amount of days. 

Whatever period you go for, applies to all Document Types in your Archive. You cannot customise by Document Type how long a document is kept in your Archive before Auto-Deletion.

We call this period of time, when a document is in your Archive, the Archive Shelf Life.


What happens at the end of a document's Archive Shelf Life?

The document is 
automatically and permanently deleted from your system.

Important note: This is a permanent non-recoverable action.

We call this Auto-Deletion.

Can we move a document back out of the Archive and into the main Document Store?

Yes you can.
  • Go to your Document Store > Archived Documents.
  • Locate the document to restore back out of the Archive and into your Document Store.
  • Click the back arrow, which restores the document to your Document Store.
  • You'll notice that the Auto-Archive Date and Auto-Deletion Date have been cleared from the document

You should also see the History Record:

How do we enable the functionality?

It's turned off by default.
First, you need to switch on the functionality.
Go to your organisation's settings page.
  • Scroll down to Document Types
  • Check the empty box 'Enable Auto-Archiving & Auto-Deletion of Documents'

     to enable the Auto-Archiving and Auto-Deletion functionality.
  • Next, type into the empty box the number of days you want to hold a document in your Archive. After this period of time in the Archive, the document deletes automatically.

  • Important note: This is the period of time to hold any document in your Archive. You might want to say that you hold all documents in your Archive for 30 days before they go to Auto-Deletion. So you would:
  • type 30 into the field
  • click update, and
  • press Save.
  • Check your changes saved correctly with the toaster messages and history records:

Setting up a test Document Type with Auto-Archive Days

Create a new Document Type. Click here for a refresher help article on how to do so.

Then, in the pop-up box as you create the Document Type, you make a choice. Either choose the radio button:
  • That says 'Never'. 
  • That says 'Auto-Archive (Days)'. 

What happens if you select Never?

This means a document with this Document Type will never go to the Archive. It will always remain in your Document Store. Documents have 'Never' as their default setting.

What happens if you select 'Auto-Archive (Days)'?

This requires you to confirm the number of days after which the document should move to the Archive. This period starts from the date of Uploading.

After [X] days have passed (where [X] = the days after which to move into Archive), the document will move automatically to your Archive (Auto-Archive).

A History Record will record the fact it happened.

Can you manually over-ride the Auto-Archive date?

Yes, you can.

The box that appears that allows you to set a date is called the 'date picker'.

Where a document has an Auto-Archive date assigned to it, this date will pre-populate in the Auto-Archive Date field of the Document Uploader.

To over-ride this date (either extending it out, or shortening it), simply select the new date and save.

Let's manually change the Auto-Archive Date of a document.
  • We'll open it up.
  • Click the Auto-Archive Date.
  • Change it to a new date.
  • And then do the same for the Auto-Delete Date
  • Click 'Edit' to save
  • Check the History Record 

How do you know when a document is going to the Archive?

Organisation Administrators on Complyfile get a system-generated email notification in their email Inbox. We call this email the 30-Day Auto-Archive Alert email:

The email tells Administrators what documents are going to the Archive.
It does this 30 days before the document's Auto-Archive date.

What's the purpose of the email?

So that if you want to change your mind and stop a document going to the Archive.

Can you opt out or back in to getting the email notification?

Yes, in your Notification Preferences section of your profile page.

  • Leave the checkbox empty if you do not want to get an email notification.
  • Check/tick the unchecked box if you do want to get an email notification.
  • Note that at least one Administrator must receive the email notification.

History Records

Opting out and opting in creates History Records. This happens on the Administrator's profile page, and also on the home page of the application:

Will you get another reminder email before Auto-Deletion?

No, you won't.
So be sure to check the Auto-Archive Alert email.
To check that you're happy with the documents scheduled for Auto-Archiving.
As once their Archive Shelf Life elapses, they go to Auto-Deletion.

What happens if you manually delete a document that has Auto-Archive and Auto-Delete settings applied to it?

The system recognises your instructions, and immediately bypasses the previously applied Auto-Archive date for the document. The document moves to the Archive. It creates a History Record. It then Auto-Deletes automatically after the period of days that your documents sit in the Archive.

How to test the Auto-Archiving and Auto-Deletion functionality

We look here at:

  • how to test auto-archiving, and getting the 30-Day Archiving Alert email
  • how to test auto-deletion

Testing Auto-Archiving & Receipt of the Auto-Archive Alert email

  • Switch on Auto-Archiving and Auto-Deletion (see above).
  • Create two new test Document Types. E.g. 'Sensitive Test Document Type 1' and 'Sensitive Test Document Type 2'. Or 'Testing 30-Day Auto-Archiving'.
  • In the first new Document Type, set the Auto-Archive Period as 30 days. So that the document is Auto-Archived after 30 days. Setting it as 30 days (for test purposes) means you'll see the 30-Day Auto-Archive email alert tonight.
  • Next, upload a test document. e.g. a blank word document called 'Test Doc 1'.
  • Select 'Sensitive Test Document Type 1' as the Document Type. 
  • The Auto-Archive Date should display as today's date (the date of upload) plus 30 days.
  • Check that your Admins have opted to get the Email Notification

Result? Tonight you should get the 30-Day Auto-Archive Alert email.
Tonight will be the 30th day before the document Auto-Archives.
The system will see that in 30 days time this document should Auto-Archive. You should get an email alert telling you this around midnight. Check that you did.

(The system checks which documents to Auto-Archive in 30 days' time. It will recognise that the test document is one of these documents. And the system sends an email to the relevant Administrators, to let them know).

Testing Auto-Deletion (without waiting [X] Days)

  • In the second new Document Type, set the Auto-Archive Period as 1 day. So that the document is Auto-Archived after 1 day (or other amount of days of your choice).
  • Remember that you set the number of days after which period documents Auto-Delete. To test this process you want to accelerate that waiting time.
  • So, manually over-ride the Auto-Delete Date. You could set it for the next day immediately following. I.e. Auto-Archive after 1 day; then Auto-Delete 1 day later.
  • Next, upload a test document. Select 'Sensitive Test Document Type 2' as the Document Type. 
Result? The system will see that 1 day from today this document should Auto-Archive. So, 1 day after uploading, the document will Auto-Archive. Then, 1 day later, the document will Auto-Delete. Check that it did.

Note: you can also schedule it so that the document  auto-deletes the same date that it auto-archives. Simply over-ride the Auto-Deletion date in the date-picker, and choose the same date as it's due to Auto-Archive. The system will Auto-Archive the document, and then a moment later, Auto-Delete it.

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