If you are not already considering an e-mail archiving solution, your organization will likely face this decision soon. In most organizations, selection of an e-mail archiving solution is the responsibility of the IT department. However, many other stakeholders, including legal, records management and the end-user community, must be considered.
Before embarking on an e-mail archiving solution, IT professionals need to understand a range of business and technology issues-from the key reasons for e-mail archiving to the best type of e-mail archive solution to meet those needs. Understanding the reasons why your organization needs an e-mail archiving solution and how to choose one that fits your needs will play a key role in choosing the right solution for your enterprise.
Everything about your firm’s business lives somewhere in e-mail, the most commonly used form of corporate communication. Data that impacts revenue, the history of business decisions, even missteps that could impact your company’s reputation-it all flows freely through e-mail. With all of this at stake, it’s not surprising that e-mail is subject to a growing range of legal, regulatory compliance and business requirements. Couple that with the fact that e-mail tends to be a “storage hog,” and organizations have a challenge that’s not going away.
By providing a secure, searchable and centralized repository for e-mail, an archive can address the full range of legal, regulatory, business and storage challenges presented by e-mail. These challenges, and the opportunities presented by e-mail archiving solutions, are explored in more detail below.
Electronic discovery and litigation
One of the most important considerations for businesses, regardless of size or industry, is the issue of electronic search and discovery. Electronic discovery usually refers to the retrieval of data from a computer to meet a legal request. However, the term can also be used whenever data retrieval is required for regulatory compliance, human resources concerns, validation of client correspondence or other corporate needs. As a result, all organizations can benefit from search and discovery capabilities for e-mail-even if they are not currently involved in litigation.
Recently, the electronic discovery burden on IT organizations has increased both in frequency and demand. In fact, it was recently found that 66 percent of IT organizations have referred to e-mail archives or backup tapes to support their organization’s innocence in a legal case. And 63 percent of organizations have been ordered by a court or regulatory body to produce employee e-mail. This is not surprising when you consider that e-mail is just as admissible in court as paper-based documents and can be requested for legal discovery at any time. In fact, e-mail evidence has been the “smoking gun” in numerous cases of illegal corporate activity.
Saving time and expense
Without an archiving system with appropriate search and discovery capabilities, these requests consume a great deal of time, effort and expense on the part of the entire organization. The IT department in a typical large organization spends 5 hours per 1,000 users per week performing backups, recovering users’ deleted e-mails, and dealing with other backup and archiving-related tasks. That works out to approximately $10 per user per year on labor alone. For smaller organizations, it’s an estimated cost of up to $34 per user per year-for just the labor involved in managing backups and archiving.
Cost isn’t the only concern when retrieving data for a discovery request. In most cases, a strict time limit is enforced when data must be produced. For example, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission generally requires that e-mail be produced within 48 hours of a request. Failure to produce requested e-mail in a reasonable timeframe can result in significant fines.
Without an e-mail archiving discovery system, it is also difficult to limit searches for appropriate data before presenting to litigators, creating opportunities for unnecessary data to be exposed. Ultimately, the cost of innocence can be extremely high for organizations that do not proactively manage e-mail usage and archiving.
In recent years, archiving of e-mail messages has become a business requirement driven by numerous federal and state regulations, including the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, SEC 17a 3-4, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) rules. With more than 10,000 regulations on data and record retention currently in force in North America, very few businesses are exempt from some form of regulatory scrutiny.
These regulations are forcing businesses to retain e-mail just as they must retain other formal corporate records-or face penalties that can include significant fines or even criminal charges. With a policy-driven archiving system in place, e-mail can be checked for compliance with regulations, and then retained for the appropriate amount of time based on e-mail content. These solutions can also reduce the risk of inappropriate content being exchanged, as employees can be alerted when an e-mail doesn’t comply with company policy.
Nearly every IT department has struggled with the issue of storage management for messaging servers. The pressure to increase storage capacity continues to grow as the amount of e-mail sent each day, as well as the size of messages and attachments, increases. This ever-increasing storage demand is driven in part by faster connection speeds and partly by the fact that e-mail’s role as a primary channel for corporate communication continues to expand. This growth is not expected to slow down in the near future. In fact, it is estimated that corporate e-mail traffic will almost double between 2005 and 2009-increasing from 64.9 billion to 120 billion messages a day.
An archiving system, by automatically offloading data into an archive, can dramatically improve the efficiency of messaging servers and make management processes such as backups easier.
Beyond the capacity issues associated with storage management, e-mail has also become the de facto filing system for many enterprises. As much as 60 percent of business-critical information is stored in e-mail and other electronic messaging tools. Everything from sales proposals and marketing plans to competitor profiles, contracts and personnel files can exist-sometimes exclusively-in an employee’s in-box.
Maintaining an archive that allows users to easily access and search all previous e-mail can greatly improve productivity. In addition, a disgruntled employee cannot delete vital content. In the event of an employee leaving the company, the trail of information managed by that staff member can be accessed in the future.
E-mail Archiving Solutions
E-mail archiving solutions
Now that the reasons to archive e-mail have been clearly identified, it is important to examine the three main types of archiving solutions available to help you choose the type of solution that will work best for your corporation:
The first, the on-premises or in-house option, will involve the purchase and installation of storage hardware and software for policy enforcement.
The second option is to contract with a hosted provider that delivers archiving as a hosted service.
Finally, businesses can deploy a hybrid solution that combines certain elements of the in-house and hosted models.
Understanding the differences between these solutions is critical when trying to determine what is best for your business. Let’s take a closer look at each.
On-premises or in-house archiving solutions
To deploy an e-mail archiving solution in-house, an organization must define requirements, develop or purchase appropriate software, and buy the needed hardware. With the large amount of e-mail data that most organizations send and receive, archiving requires a significant amount of storage hardware.
In-house e-mail archiving solutions typically use a dedicated, server-based platform that copies all e-mail from the message store into an archive. Some solutions also require that software be installed on all employees’ PCs to facilitate searching and retrieval. In-house solutions offer a high level of control and data security, as well as convenient integration with other systems in the organization’s existing infrastructure. However, these solutions can be costly to acquire and often require dedicated, skilled personnel to maintain.
When considering an on-premises e-mail archiving solution, organizations should also consider the additional infrastructure, maintenance and facility costs associated with deploying duplicate systems in remote locations-if they want to ensure true disaster recovery capabilities.
Hosted archiving solutions
An alternative to the in-house approach is to choose a hosted solution. This allows a company to archive its data at a third-party location, reducing the burden on internal IT resources. Outsourcing also allows a company to avoid the substantial cost of buying hardware and software, as well as the inconvenience of maintaining an archiving system.
However, a serious concern with some hosted solutions is a lack of data security. By storing confidential e-mail data at an external location, a business may open itself up to security breaches or HIPAA privacy concerns. In many hosted solutions, archived data is not stored in encrypted form, posing an even greater risk. In addition, without direct integration with the organization’s e-mail server, management of archives can be an additional challenge.
SAAS hybrid archiving solutions
A third approach that is emerging is the SAAS (software-as-a-service) hybrid model. The typical setup involves an appliance installed at the customer’s site, combined with secure storage managed “in the cloud” by a third-party provider. In some cases, encryption is performed before the data leaves the customer location, ensuring the content of archived e-mail can never be accessed from outside the customer’s own network. The hybrid approach combines the convenience of a hosted solution with the more robust features and security of on-premises solutions.
The hybrid model is based on the idea that customers want security and easy integration, but also wish to avoid the high costs and inconvenience of acquiring and managing large amounts of storage. And, of course, storage costs are not the only consideration. In-house solutions typically require high levels of administration, maintenance and ongoing support. As organizations better understand the long-term costs and maintenance required to archive e-mail, the hybrid model is likely to become a common approach.
Clearly, e-mail use within the corporate environment will only continue to rise. It is estimated that worldwide e-mail traffic increased by 35 percent in 2004, totaling 76.8 billion messages per day. Corporate e-mails accounted for 83 percent of this traffic. If left unchecked, corporate e-mail can leave a business vulnerable. As e-mail messages increasingly take center stage in headlines and lawsuits, it has become the electronic equivalent of DNA evidence. Having a system in place that takes this risk into account is crucial for businesses that don’t want to end up at the center of one of these scandals.
With regulatory compliance, legal discovery and storage management concerns growing, the question is not if your organization will need an archiving solution, but rather, when it will need one. Even if your organization isn’t ready yet, start evaluating the key risks, rewards and reasons for archiving now. You will be in a better position to make the right choice when the time comes.
Over the years, Rick has also worked with dozens of smaller high-tech companies, consulting on the development of business strategies to propel long-term growth. Rick received his Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree from Wilfrid Laurier University. He can be reached at [email protected].