Convert e-mails to PDF

In order to implement permanent and legally compliant e-mail archiving, it is essential for every company to develop a well thought-out concept that defines the data format in which the e-mails are stored in the company.

This requires that all e-mails are uniformly converted from Outlook (MSG) or MIME (EML) format to an archive format such as PDF/A. The background to this are the legal requirements in Germany. Here, the rules for e-mail retention are formulated. The principles of the GoBD (principles of proper accounting and documentation), HGB (German Commercial Code), AO (German Fiscal Code) and the UstG (Value Added Tax Act) apply to the archiving of e-mails.

Legally compliant e-mail archiving according to DSGVO and GoBD

All business e-mails must be stored in compliance with GoBD and EU-DSGVO, i.e. secure storage of e-mails and attachments must be guaranteed. The most common means of communication in everyday business, regardless of the size of the company, is e-mail nowadays. This means that even small companies have to receive and send a large number of e-mails every day and thus must also comply with the German storage and transparency obligations.

Whether and to what extent a company has a duty to archive e-mails depends on the particular field of activity involved and the content of the e-mail. It is important that the tax regulations for audit-proof archiving of e-mails are strictly adhered to and stored in accordance with GoBD. This is because all e-mails with tax-relevant content must be stored for at least ten years. When in doubt, it is therefore better to store more than too little. In addition: According to the DSGVO, a transparent handling of data must be guaranteed. Due to data protection regulations, the only exceptions to the obligation to retain data are personal e-mail communications from employees and discussions between employees and the works council or company doctors.

In any case, one thing is certain: every company must deal with well thought-out and well-structured e-mail archiving.

How long should e-mails be kept?

How long a company has to archive its e-mails can be seen from the retention periods in the German Commercial Code (HGB) and the German Fiscal Code (AO). Accordingly, commercial letters sent by e-mail must be retained for six years. If the e-mails also contain certain organizational documents or are relevant in terms of tax law, the period is even ten years.

Long-term e-mail archiving: All conditions at a glance

1. all e-mails, including attachments must be in their original state (no printouts, no copies)

2. all documents must be protected against manipulation (audit-proof = legally binding)

3. the e-mails must be readable by machine

4. it must be possible to restore encrypted messages to their original state

In other words, all e-mails in the long-term archive must be complete, tamper-proof, available at all times and machine-readable. The e-mails and attachments should therefore also be conveniently searchable in order to retrieve content and export data at any time.

Convert e-mails uniformly

In order to meet the legal requirements mentioned above, all companies must store their e-mails and attachments in a long-term archive in accordance with the GoBD and DSGVO. Most of them rely on established archiving solutions. As a rule, the legal requirements for e-mail archiving cannot be met with the usual e-mail clients. For this reason, many companies have established the practice of converting all e-mails and attachments uniformly into PDF/A format and transferring them to a long-term archive. For this purpose, e-mails can first be converted into an audit-proof PDF/A using a conversion solution such as webPDF, and then transferred to the archiving solution.

webPDF can be easily integrated and used in existing company structures and IT landscapes. With webPDF you get an all-round conversion solution for the handling of e-mails and data in your company. Your e-mails and documents can be converted uniformly and the conversion and formatting processes can be controlled centrally on the server.

All important, detailed background information can be found here: