It's no secret that the standard method of corporate communication is email. Email consumes more employee time than almost any other task. Research shows that users spend one-quarter of their time working with email. Furthermore, as much as 75 percent of a company's intellectual property exists only within email. It's no wonder regulatory agencies require email archiving and searching solutions. An email archive is a secure storage space for messages that requires no interaction from the end user. Note that an archive is not a backup. The archive requires backup and restore capability as an other repository does. This list of five reasons sheds new light on why you need an email archiving system.
1. Legal Considerations
Companies that don't already have an email archiving system in place will find their money well spent, should any lawsuits appear in their future. There's no statute of limitations regarding how far back a company will have to search its email archives. Restoring this data from tapes proves prohibitively expensive and often impossible if tape damage or data corruption has occurred. Every business needs an email archiving system that provides access to historical data and provides a searchable index. Government, healthcare-related businesses and financial institutions have strict requirements in place regarding storage and retention of documents, including email.
As an example of email's admissibility in courts of law, consider Florida Supreme Court's observation that "Email transmissions are quickly becoming a substitute for telephonic and printed communications, as well as a substitute for direct oral communications."
2. Regulatory Compliance
Perhaps driving the demand for email archiving solutions to a greater level than legal considerations is regulatory compliance. Regulations require those businesses that must comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act (HIPAA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and others to maintain a searchable email archive. The Securities and Exchange Commission levies heavy penalties against companies that fail to comply with regulations specifically covering email archiving and searching.
HIPAA, for example, contains some statutes that require institutions to retain emails concerning details of patient's medical history until two years after a patient's death.
3. Search Capability
Archiving huge amounts of data in disk-based storage areas or data warehouses demands the ability to search data quickly and accurately. Search capability comes with a cost. As data grows, so does the complexity of managing that data. Unfortunately, regulations stipulate data must remain in its original state and native format, which often isn't in a readily searchable format.
There are companies that assist in these efforts with software, archival systems and management applications that make the storage and retrieval tasks manageable.
4. Knowledge Management
How much valuable information in any company goes undocumented in a formal way? Email can contain vital business information that isn't documented or stored elsewhere. Email archiving systems solve this problem. It certainly isn't the preferred or most efficient method of having standard searchable documentation, but it does preserve a vast knowledge base contained only in email conversations.
5. Storage Management
By storing a user's email to a centralized space, the risk of loss due to user error greatly decreases. Centralized storage also means a user's email isn't stored on failure-prone and theft-prone local systems. The employee's company owns the email that traverses its systems; employees do not. Collecting email into archives and managed storage grants the company and its owners full access to valuable company-owned resources. This protects assets, such as intellectual property, confidential marketing plans, internal-only memos, and communications that may later lead to discovery and investigation in court cases as discussed in item one, Legal Considerations.
Additionally, central email storage moves the burden of mailbox maintenance away from email servers. User mailboxes can grow into multiple gigabytes during the course of employment tenure, and huge mailboxes place undue strain on email servers and results in a universal performance hit.
Ken Hess is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of open source topics including Linux, databases, and virtualization. He is also the coauthor of Practical Virtualization Solutions, which was published in October 2009. You may reach him through his web site at http://www.kenhess.com.