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White House Details E-Mail Archiving Effort

The Obama Administration has been using EMC's EmailXtender e-mail management software since the President's first day in office.

The plaintiffs in the suit applauded the White House's apparent archiving improvements. "The White House appears to be approaching its record preservation obligations with greater conscientiousness than during the last administration," Meredith Fuchs, the National Security Archive's general counsel, said in a statement.

The White House, however, clearly isn't on the present generation of EMC's e-mail management software, as the system evolved last year into a larger content lifecycle management platform known as EMC SourceOne. An IDC white paper from last year notes that EmailXtender was architected in a time when "business requirements and massive information growth were not as critical" as they are today. SourceOne Email Management costs $50,000 for use for 1,000 mailboxes.

The letter represents rare publicity for its author, White House CIO Brook Colangelo, a former tech director for the Democratic National Committee, who has remained in the background as other Obama tech appointees such as federal CIO Vivek Kundra and CTO Aneesh Chopra have taken center stage.

The letter also includes a number of other details about the White House's IT environment, as well. For example, it notes that the White House is in the early stages of an upgrade from Microsoft Exchange 2000 to Microsoft Exchange 2007, which will be completed before the end of the fiscal year this fall, and that White House employees are blocked from accessing "all known Web-based external e-mail systems" and instant messaging programs.

Under the terms of the settlement, the Obama administration will also have to restore Bush-era e-mails from backup tapes, prepare those e-mails for storage by the National Archives and Records Administration and release a set of documents to the lawsuit's plaintiffs.

The suit also uncovered some 22 million e-mails, identified other previously unknown e-mail archives, ensured preservation of e-mails for 12 years after settlement of the suit, and helped encourage improved practices at the White House, according to the National Security Archive.

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