An essential records management program is a set of policies and procedures for the systematic, comprehensive, and economical control of adverse consequences attributable to the loss of mission-critical information.

Essential records contain mission critical information identified as vital for the continuation or survival of an organization if a disaster strikes. These records are necessary to recreate the organization's legal and financial status and to determine the rights and obligations of employees, customers, stockholders, and citizens.

Whether, private, public, or non-profit, all organizations have certain business operations that they must perform. If essential records are lost, damaged, destroyed, or otherwise rendered unavailable or unusable, mission critical operations will be curtailed or discontinued, resulting in adverse impact--and potentially damaging consequences--to an organization. Consequently, the protection of essential records is one of the most important components of a systematic records and information management program. 

Examples of essential records in higher education include: