Managing the explosive growth of e-mail

Companies need an e-mail management system that cuts costs and improves archive and retrieval times.


E-mail offers companies a cost-effective medium for quickly and conveniently communicating with employees, existing and prospective customers, suppliers, and business partners globally. However, while e-mail enhances business communications significantly, it also raises a variety of critical archive and retrieval issues.

For starters, the rapidly increasing size and volume of e-mails place a tremendous burden on e-mail servers, which fill up quickly. Ferris Research recently estimated there was a 50% growth in corporate e-mail messages last year, and e-mail volume is expected to increase 30% to 50% in 2001. This explosive growth will continue to accentuate message store capacity issues and force IT administrators to regularly manage servers and have users delete messages to ensure adequate storage space, without compromising system reliability.

"More than 45% of business information used for daily tasks is stored in an e-mail or messaging system," says Kym Gentry, director of marketing at Creative Networks Inc., a Sytel company that provides market research and strategic consulting for e-businesses. "Unfortunately, without a comprehensive e-mail infrastructure solution, a 5,000- person organization may spend approximately $7.15 million annually to store, manage, and access the information contained in these systems."

This system instantly captures messages and attachments from the e-mail server to a centralized automated secondary storage, giving end users complete access to e-mails stored in the archive through full text searching.
Click here to enlarge image

This proliferation also makes it more difficult and time-consuming for a company to search for or reproduce an e-mail that is inaccessible or lost. Creative Networks estimates that, on average, it takes an e-mail administrator five hours to retrieve an e-mail from a backup archive and more than 11 hours if the message is more than a year old. As a result, a company's productivity is drastically diminished, costs associated with recovering e-mails increase, and vital business information may disappear or become inaccessible. An example of this issue occurred earlier this year when Vice President Al Gore and his White House staff could not retrieve thousands of e-mails that were requested as part of a federal inquiry. The Washington Times reported that the estimated cost of recovering 250,000 White House e-mails from more than 4,900 backup tapes was $10 million.

In addition, to protect e-mail as a valuable business asset, companies must implement procedures to protect confidential information contained in e-mail from loss, theft, and inappropriate disclosure. Protecting information will also be essential for companies to comply with existing and future regulations and legal requirements. For example, publicly held companies must now store and be able to rapidly access a historical representation of business e-mails to comply with Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulations.

And finally, as we have seen with the Melissa and Love Bug viruses, the explosive growth of e-mail has also made organizations more susceptible to hostile virus attacks waged by hackers. As a result, companies not only require anti-virus applications to fend off these attacks, but also need the ability to quickly restore critical business information if the virus is successful. To address these numerous e-mail and messaging issues, companies must implement a comprehensive solution for storing, maintaining, and guaranteeing access to business-critical e-mail.

Management options

In today's traditional message store architectures, e-mail storage is not centrally controlled, server message stores are constantly increasing in size, and backup tapes of these message stores are used primarily for disaster-recovery purposes. To enable businesses to succeed in the future, e-mail management systems will need to be able to clean up and recover sensitive or potentially damaging messages, comply with regulations, and provide reliable recordkeeping, while reducing operation costs and liability. Companies have several options for managing and accessing the deluge of e-mail.

First, companies can rely solely on the message store and local backups. However, without the appropriate technology and policies, e-mails will clog message stores, which, in turn, will threaten e-mail server performance and force IT departments to routinely and indiscriminately purge critical files from the system.

The second option is to implement a centrally controlled storage system that routinely makes backup tapes of the e-mail server archives, which can be searched when necessary. However, this system requires employees and administrators to reload backup tapes on duplicate messaging systems and search through the company's backlog of e-mails to find a lost file-an expensive and time-consuming process.

In addition, companies need to keep a historical record of backup tapes in case there is an external request for information as a result of legal issues, SEC regulations, or Freedom of Information Act inquiries.

The third option is to implement an e-mail or messaging system with centralized archive and retrieval capabilities to store messages and attachments in a secure and rapidly searchable archive. This system would automatically copy e-mails and attachments from the message server into a messaging center, eliminating restrictions on mailbox or message sizes. The e-mail management system should also provide

  • E-mail server management by providing automatic capture capabilities, integrated support for low-cost storage, and content-based classification rules. This reduces message store saturation and increases message availability by transforming an organization's temporary cache of messages on a server into an enterprise document management system.
  • Fast and efficient access to the historical body of e-mail messages and attachments through full-text indexing and cataloging for employees.
  • Reduced costs associated with being able to recover messages or documents from an e-mail archive more quickly and efficiently. Creative Networks estimates that large companies spend an average of $193 per user per year to retrieve messages from archives. An e-mail message system should help companies reduce this expense.
  • Record management that adheres to an organization's formal e-mail policies and enables the company to comply with SEC, federal, state, and local e-mail management requirements.
  • Protection of business communications to ensure e-mail records are tamper-proof throughout their life cycle.
  • In addition, the e-mail management system should help clean up a message store and guard against the loss of information following a virus attack.

E-mail is a business-critical tool that has tremendous value. But without quick, reliable, and thorough access to historical e-mails, there are some potentially serious business and legal ramifications. As a result, companies need an e-mail or messaging system that has enterprise-wide archive and retrieval capabilities to improve access to e-mail, rebound after virus attacks, eliminate message size restrictions, and optimize e-mail server bottlenecks, reliability, and uptime.

Chris Gray is a product director at OTG Software Inc. (www.otg.com) in Bethesda, MD.

This article was originally published on December 01, 2000