Software // Information Management
01:10 PM

What To Know About E-Mail Archiving

E-mail retention needs often conflict -- even among departments in the same company. A records management expert suggests seven steps to effective archiving.

Without central management, it's unlikely that messages in personal folders will ever be disposed of by users, so folders will continue to grow. Also, search functionality does not operate across multiple personal folders; so in the event of investigation or litigation, each user's hard drive must be searched individually, a costly endeavor. Offline folders, commonly used for e-mail copies by mobile employees with laptops, will reflect changes made to server mailboxes only when the laptop is synchronized with the server. It's possible that duplicate copies of e-mails deleted from the server may still exist on the laptop.

Public folders can be set up in Exchange as a limited solution. This ad hoc approach can be achieved by establishing a hierarchy of public folders that reflects the company's retention schedule and categories. Theoretically, users drag and drop e-mail records into the appropriate public folder, and each folder has an appropriate expiration date attached to it. The problem is that users must be trained to select the proper folder and must be motivated to contemporaneously place record-quality e-mails into the proper folders — an unlikely scenario given productivity demands and e-mail volumes. Also, there is no way to handle event-based retention, such as close-of-audit-plus-six-year policies that call for retention to begin only after an event has occurred.

6. Recognize the need for technology investment. E-mail retention and storage is expensive. Some experts estimate that administrators spend as much as six hours per week recovering old messages for users. Responding to legal discovery can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, too. In a recent gender discrimination suit, UBS Warburg reportedly spent nearly $250,000 producing e-mail for the case. This labor-intensive process entails retrieving and mounting a tape, restoring it to a search environment, searching for pertinent e-mails, printing responsive messages for legal review, then clearing the search milieu and repeating the steps for each succeeding tape. Where e-mails exist on user hard drives, the process is even more costly. Within regulated industries and those subject to investigation or audit, cost justification is relatively simple.

Any technology solution must provide a secure repository, metadata collection and granular message management from creation to final disposition - not just the ability to manage one category such as customer correspondence for a finite period of time. Equally important is the ability to capture contextual information about a message, such as routing, threads, links, embedded items and attachments. Preservation of messages for long periods, the ability to override destruction when necessary, and navigation, search and retrieval functionality are vital needs. Options include systems specialized for e-mail (see "Product Guide: E-Mail Archive Software"), outsourced e-mail vaulting through Iron Mountain and others, and products designed to manage enterprise content such as Documentum, Open Text Livelink and others.

7. Resist the urge to either save everything or print and file. Although appealing in simplicity and possibly defensible on the basis of cost to implement, neither is good policy. While storage is cheap, the cost to review everything at discovery is not. Printing and filing paper copies not only impairs the context for understanding the message exchange, but also loses embedded items, delivery confirmations and other valuable information in the process.

E-mail archiving does not lend itself to the "just get it off my desk" school of problem solving. As with so many other compliance issues these days, e-mail archiving is less likely to be a project with a definite start, middle and end, and more likely to be part of an ongoing program aimed at realistic control. Emerging standards and influential organizations recognize that all records, including e-mail, instant messages and phone text originate as part of business processes. Monitoring, filtering, encryption, collection, management and preservation should be an automatic part of those processes. For this reason, expect e-mail management product architectures to follow the classic trajectory from independent products with their own repositories to inclusion in enterprise content management platforms. Also worth watching is the concept of a single-policy control mechanism, such as IBM's DB2 Records Manager, that can be used across multiple repositories and applications.

Julie Gable is a records management expert and principal of Gable Consulting. Write her at

2 of 2
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
The Agile Archive
The Agile Archive
When it comes to managing data, donít look at backup and archiving systems as burdens and cost centers. A well-designed archive can enhance data protection and restores, ease search and e-discovery efforts, and save money by intelligently moving data from expensive primary storage systems.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
Increasing IT Agility and Speed To Drive Business Growth
Learn about the steps you'll need to take to transform your IT operation and culture into an agile organization that supports business-driving initiatives.
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.