What happens to an employee’s digital files when they leave the company? What about yours – do you take yours with you?


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Today dear readers, we’ve got a quick question to ask you: What happens to an employee’s digital files when they leave the company where you work at? What about yours – do you take yours with you?

We’d love to hear all about it, so be sure to let us know by leaving a comment in the comments section below. This post is part of an experiment we’re doing with a few blogs and the Six Apart community, so we’d really appreciate your participation. Thanks!





35 Responses to What happens to an employee’s digital files when they leave the company? What about yours – do you take yours with you?

  1. I work for the United States Navy so… Taking mine with me would be an issue of national security. Its all encrypted, sorted through, and whats needed is saved. The rest is deleted.

  2. I have heard that if a person might be leaving they might take a copy of their digital stuff well before they hand in their notice. If they think they are about to be fired, it is alleged that they might Dropbox everything of interest.

    Allegedly…

  3. If it's anything I think I may be able to use again, I definitely take it with me. Unless, of course, it's sensitive or confidential.

    My source code ALWAYS goes with me.

  4. Depends on how they are leaving our department.

    If they are retiring or being fired, they take absolutely nothing except for the personal effects on their desk (even then a family member must come get them if fired). If they are going to another job, we allow them to take their contacts (through an Outlook PST file) but all other files stay.

    I personally, through other jobs, when leaving for bigger and better things have taken a copy of all the code I have written, database designs (not the data, just the structure) and any personal effects.

  5. Everything in their personal network drive is erased when they are removed from active directory. Files saved on individual computers will remain until the next time they are re-imaged.

    • That is such a generic corporate answer, and really doesn’t cover other digital files such as emails, contact lists, photos, templates, word docs, etc.

      For me personally, I would not take any code that is proprietary, but a small function or class I wrote that is generic I might take with me (something that has no monetary value to the company, although I am sure others will argue that everything does). I often bring code I do at home (on my own time) into work to make my job easier, why not take some home if it is of no importance to the company? I like to keep a code repository of useful code snippets, it helps speed up my development substantially. I would also take home any pictures I took at work, these are not sold/owned by the company, simply pictures taken at corporate events for fun that bosses have asked me to put on their corporate site as well. I would possibly also take my email contact list, as I have met many friends here and have some great coworkers. Most other items would depend if they had any particular value to me, but I would take as much as allowed. Powerpoints made for training (on my own time, but used at work as well) I would probably keep as a self-refence even if I never trained again. Emails I don’t see myself keeping unless for legal reasons.

      The coporate policy where I work is that everything created here belongs to the company. Computers aren’t wiped until some requirement to do so (if re-imaging the computer for a new task). USB ports and CD-rom drives are disabled, and not supposed to copy any files outside of the network, but it is not an enforced policy. As far as I know, there is nothing specified about emails, contact lists, pictures, etc – and most areas are kind of grey. I think it will greatly depend on how you leave the company.

    • While working retail and other companies on computers there was a warning stating that anything created for the company or using company resources was the default property of that company.
      And I can't imagine being such a insane person that I would wipe the entire hard drive and reload the OS and applications. Not to mention I never would have been able to due to restrictions and tech knowing I was doing it.

      Wow.

    • That is such a generic corporate answer, and really doesn't cover other digital files such as emails, contact lists, photos, templates, word docs, etc.

      For me personally, I would not take any code that is proprietary, but a small function or class I wrote that is generic I might take with me (something that has no monetary value to the company, although I am sure others will argue that everything does). I often bring code I do at home (on my own time) into work to make my job easier, why not take some home if it is of no importance to the company? I like to keep a code repository of useful code snippets, it helps speed up my development substantially. I would also take home any pictures I took at work, these are not sold/owned by the company, simply pictures taken at corporate events for fun that bosses have asked me to put on their corporate site as well. I would possibly also take my email contact list, as I have met many friends here and have some great coworkers. Most other items would depend if they had any particular value to me, but I would take as much as allowed. Powerpoints made for training (on my own time, but used at work as well) I would probably keep as a self-refence even if I never trained again. Emails I don't see myself keeping unless for legal reasons.

      The coporate policy where I work is that everything created here belongs to the company. Computers aren't wiped until some requirement to do so (if re-imaging the computer for a new task). USB ports and CD-rom drives are disabled, and not supposed to copy any files outside of the network, but it is not an enforced policy. As far as I know, there is nothing specified about emails, contact lists, pictures, etc – and most areas are kind of grey. I think it will greatly depend on how you leave the company.

  6. My company backs up any files that will be needed by a replacement in the role, and then does a 7 pass hard drive wipe on the machine. Nothing survives. O.O

  7. A lot of companies issue a clause in their contracts that anything you create in the workplace becomes the intellectual property of that company…

    Personally, I always take my digital files with me, alongside hard copies of non-digital files. I also ensue that I have hard copies of anything that I do, and writing instructions for what I am instructed to do.

    If I leave a company on good terms, then they can utilise my work with credit given to me. On bad terms, all my work is deleted after being backed up…

  8. I leave sensitive stuff and anything that I am not free to re-use, but take the rest. Last time I left a company, most of the files I took were save-files for videogames I had been playing. (I was a games designer, so I was actively encouraged to play games on the quad-core gaming rig on my desk during my lunch-break)

    I left a copy of most of my files, but I deleted my personal emails and internet history / passwords. I also took home a few signed papers from my boss saying "you own X,Y and Z, so the company relinquishes all claim", which was nice.

  9. We treat all data as property of the company. When your employment is terminated, either by yourself or the company, your work product is either granted to your former supervisor, the department/work group as a whole or your successor. Workstations shouldn't have data on them but we check to make sure that any work product is preserved before the drives are wiped (we use a DOJ standard for wiping so there really is no retrieval after the fact).

  10. I'd love to have some of the code I've written at previous jobs – however the company owns it, I don't. Taking a copy of it would be stealing, pure and simple. All files on the companies machine are owned by the company, and ideally there should be no personal files there.

  11. The people who say they take their code, etc. when they leave… wow. I agree with the sentiments, after all, it's nice to be able to add it to a portfolio. But unless you happen to have been working on an open source project, chances are that you are in gross violation of your contract. Not only that, but the last thing that I would want would be for something related to my work ending up in the wrong hands… and when an audit is conducted, having my username show up as dumping a ton of files on my last day of work. Even if I wasn't the cause of the leak, I don't need that kind of headache. Besides, I have plenty of portfolio work, because I do a lot of projects on my own, for fun, freelance, etc.

    What do I take?

    * Anything I brought in the door with me when I showed up.
    * Anything personal given to me while there (coffee mugs, T-Shirts, keychains, etc.)

    That's it.

    What do I leave behind?

    * All source code, images, documentation, and other intellectual property created by myself or others, unless explicitly given authorization to take it *in writing*.
    * All keys, key fobs, and other means of physical access.
    * All computer equipment, company bought phones, etc.
    * All office supplies (please, for what I get paid, I can afford to buy my own pens, thank you).
    * All copies of software, licenses, etc.
    * Full and complete (as complete as possible) documentation of any work I have done, including usernames and passwords for systems provided to the appropriate person (replacement, supervisor, IT department, etc.).

    By treating former employers with courtesy and respect and in accordance with the law, I've found that I've been able to maintain great relationships with them… including receiving future offers of work and references.

    J.Ja

  12. I work for the United States Navy so… Taking mine with me would be an issue of national security. Its all encrypted, sorted through, and whats needed is saved. The rest is deleted.

  13. I have heard that if a person might be leaving they might take a copy of their digital stuff well before they hand in their notice. If they think they are about to be fired, it is alleged that they might Dropbox everything of interest.

    Allegedly…

  14. When i lost my computer shop job, my PC got sold to the next person that walked in. As I was cleaning my desk, I had some one request a second hand computer. So I sold them my workstation and re-installed windows on it.

  15. I'm an administrative type, so anything personnel sensitive stays. Anything I can safely add to my portfolio, like presentations, etc., both stays and goes, so the company and I both have a copy. Personal emails, copies and confirmations of time card submissions, anything I've downloaded/added/saved, come with me and get deleted from the host. Personal stuff, like my tea collection, kleenex, coffee cup, space heater, obviously all goes home with me.Thanks to the economy, I'm currently temping, so I'm getting pretty good at switching computers and cubes!

  16. Where I work right now, once you're fired your Active Directory account is locked and your session is remotely closed, so you have absolutely no access to your computer and taking your files (or anything) is out of the question.

    While you're working we have all media ports blocked (DVD Drives, USB ports, etc, etc) and all email is scanned to check whether you're sending yourself some personal stuff… Our PC is scanned at startup for any media files (mp3, avi, etc) and they're automatically deleted, besides, every three months we get a personal inspection of our files and any personal stuff (power points, pictures, and such) is deleted…. And no, I don't work for any government agency, it's an insurance company.

    So, I guess that when I get fired, all I'm taking is my car keys and my water bottle…
    Is it really necesarry to impose all those restrictions to your TI crew?

  17. It becomes company property. If I provide info to another company about my own work I could be sued by the company. Especially if it involes telling the company's secret information. Every company I ever worked for professionally was the same way.

  18. Anything that I create during my tenure with my company is company property in relation to databases, web design code, forms and so on. They encourage me to save a personal copy of anything I create without any company or sensitive data in it at all (my boss checks) as proof of concept and part of my personal portfolio for my resume. But, as an IT manager here in a company in the medical field I am responsible for ensuring no sensitive data is transferred or otherwise exposed to the outside world. All employees accounts are monitored, and any employee that is leaving for any reason has their account locked so data can be inventoried and destroyed as needed. HIPPA is a BITCH like that.

  19. My wife recently left a position in an IT department that she'd held for 14 years. She left on very good terms, although I don't think it was necessarily a secret that she was leaving due to general disagreement with management direction. She submitted her resignation letter and the next morning was summoned to her boss' office to discuss. While she was in his office, he secretly had all of her access cut off. She was sent packing immediately and couldn't even get back into her PC long enough to transfer a few personal files (some digicam photos of friends within the department and such) off the C: drive or get some personal contacts out of her Outlook.

    My main takeaway from this is to be sure that you have everything you want from your PC before you submit your notice. Everyone is so paranoid these days that even employees who are retiring or leaving under the best of conditions are treated like criminals.

    My other takeway is that you should treat your work PC as though it were riddled with virii – ready to crater at any moment – and never store anything (personal or otherwise) on there that you aren't prepared to lose. Thumbdrives are cheap.

    • The problem is that sometimes thumbdrives (or any othermedia type) aren't allowed, so it's better not to put "any" personal data in there….

      I guess it's a "work" PC afterall… Even if I don't agree with that some times.

  20. What if your workstation is a laptop? What if you make VHD images of your entire operating systems into your external hard drive semi regulary? What if you connect to internet with your own 3G internet connection? What if you use your own laptop?

  21. I’m a graphic designer , the things I created and were used … I take a copy …
    The Things I created but weren’t used I take them not leaving any copies

  22. I'm a graphic designer , the things I created and were used … I take a copy …
    The Things I created but weren't used I take them not leaving any copies

  23. As a sys admin it depends on the level of function of that employee. I usually disable the account and hold onto all user info for 60-90 days before deleting. A higher level functionary usually gets their files assigned to the employee that replaces them or a supervisor. That person then has 60-90 days to sort through and keep what they want and delete what they don't before I delete the account.

    Personally what I have taken when I leave are personal files and the installers for all my software tools that I have acquired while there so I don't have to go searching for them again at the new place.

  24. I was summarily fired from a job and not allowed to access my computer. I ended up losing a bunch of files that I'd been using for graduate school which were also related to my job. I had to submit my final thesis without any of that documentation.

  25. Anything you do on someone else's time is property of the person, company who is paying for it. You have no rights to it beyond the scope of your job.

  26. When an employee leaves we archive them onto a file server for safe keeping.
    I personally synchronise all my personal work stuff to my home PC (unless it has some confidential/sensitive data of course)

  27. Take what you've worked on, and leave a copy in it's original location. It's your work and their property, and unless you use it in an illegal manner you should be able to reference it for future projects and roles.

  28. I run the IT dept of a small organization (approx. 50 employees). When someone leaves, we archive all data to a file server that only the Chief of Staff has access to. When (if) another employee fills that role or audit purposes, etc… the chief can then retrieve the data necessary. This organization supports a high profile person and a lot of our machines get reused for volunteers or temp workers, so I wipe the entire machine. The only thing I plan on taking with me are what I brought or created since there. Of course, they will keep copies and none of it pertains to the company. I alone keep access to all Administrative passwords so that when an IT member leaves and their account is removed, there is no question as to access.