Business & Finance
04:38 PM

Losing E-Mail: A Life-Altering Event

A third of IT pros say having their company's E-mail system go down is as stressful as a divorce or car wreck.

A third of all IT professionals say the stress caused by having their company's E-mail system go down is on the same level as major life events such as a car wreck or a divorce, according to a survey by U.K.-based Dynamic Markets for American storage software vendor Veritas.

"E-mail has become far more than a communication tool, placing a huge responsibility on organizations to ensure that E-mail is always available," said Mark Bregman, Veritas' executive VP for product operations. "When IT managers fail to keep the systems running, they inhibit the ability of the entire organization to conduct business."

The survey, which polled 850 CIOs and IT managers of midsize and large organizations in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and South Africa, also uncovered other tidbits of stress and anguish over E-mail and the prospect of it going south.

Nearly 70% of respondents said their users get irate within as little as a half hour after they're denied access to E-mail, while a fifth of IT executives said they feel their job is on the line if E-mail is down for 24 hours.

Extend the outage to a week, and slightly more than a third of those CIOs and IT managers surveyed said that the stress was more traumatic than major live-altering events, such as getting married, getting divorced, moving to a new house, or being involved in a car accident.

But many in IT aren't doing all they can, or even know they should, to prevent such outages.

While nearly all respondents claimed that they back up E-mail and the file attachments wedded to them, 56% admitted that at least some of their company's E-mail wasn't included in automated backup procedures--forcing either IT, or users themselves, to manually back up E-mail for safekeeping.

E-mail archiving has become a hot topic in IT, in large part because of aggressive U.S. federal regulations that demand E-mail messages be stored for long periods, and the almost automatic request for E-mail records during the discovery phases of lawsuits against firms.

"E-mail retention and management procedures are under increasing scrutiny in many regulated industries, and are the focal point of recent SEC fines," said Peter Gerr, a senior research analyst at Enterprise Storage Group.

Dynamic Markets' survey revealed that while many IT managers are cognizant of the need to back-up E-mail and that they must be able to retrieve it on demand, few can actually do so.

Although 92% of those polled said that they can recover stored E-mail messages, that number is deceiving, concluded the survey. Nearly half of the IT managers surveyed, for instance, said they would find it difficult to locate and retrieve a specific E-mail.

Even worse, retrieving long-ago messages--often those very E-mails demanded by regulatory agencies and the courts--may be nearly impossible.

Less than a fifth, 18%, can actually recover E-mail further back than a year; 30% said they can go back only as far as a month, and 11% admitted that they could only retrieve messages sent or received during the last week.

"By failing to have adequate procedures and systems in place," Gerr said, " IT organizations are unnecessarily exposing [their companies] to legal ramifications which could place the business at risk."

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