THE MAGAZINE

E-mail Archiving

By John Wagley

 More than half of all medium- and small-sized businesses do not automatically archive and securely store their e-mail, according to a few recent reports. Implementing archiving tools can save a company money, according to some analysts, if only because messages are moved to a less expensive type of storage disk.

Perhaps that’s why this practice is growing in popularity. Vendor revenue for this type of product was $376 million in 2007, according to Gartner. The firm predicts it will grow to $1.72 billion by 2012. Other reasons for growth in this sector include compliance and the need to securely store messages. Ballooning inboxes can also be difficult to manage. 

“Trying to keep it all was just phenomenal,” says Martyn Seddon, general manager of information systems at Turners and Growers, a New Zealand produce company. Turners, like many other companies, had managed its e-mail system by sending employees occasional e-mails asking that messages be deleted or locally archived. 

The idea for a central archiving solution came from some members of the IT department, who were faced with purchasing another Fibre Channel disk. Such disks are faster, but about two and a half times more expensive than another commonly used type of disk that employs technology called Small Computer System Interface (SCSI). Disks using the latter are frequently referred to as “skuzzy.”

An outside consulting firm the company worked with recommended a popular archiving solution, Symantec’s Enterprise Vault (EV). Residing in a company’s data center, EV could provide secure storage (using the cheaper disks) along with message searching functionality.

The length of time organizations keep their e-mails stored varies, depending mainly on applicable regulatory requirements. Companies that store e-mails generally purge them after a set period of time, such as after 90 or 180 days. In some heavily regulated industries, companies may be required to keep messages for a few years or more. One situation in which e-mails must be kept indefinitely is when firms are or expect to be in litigation, says Ralph Taylor, a partner in the Intellectual Property Group at the Washington-based firm Arent Fox. In such cases, firms need to keep relevant messages until the matter is resolved.

Turners’ IT department told managers about the new system at a weekly meeting. Employees were then sent messages that told them what to expect. Only a handful of approximately 1,000 employees approached the IT department with concerns, mainly involving the loss of messages. But Seddon says fears were quickly allayed when he explained that all messages would still be available in inboxes; archived messages would only take “a few milliseconds” longer to open.

Installing the solution took about two weeks, says Seddon. First, the IT staff had to do some research, seeing who accessed what e-mails and when to determine how long messages should reside in the inboxes before archiving. In the Microsoft Outlook server, IT managers looked at when individuals had last accessed messages.

On the first weekend of installation, Turners set a group of inboxes to automatically archive after 120 days. During the week, though, it became clear that 60 days would be sufficient. In reality, employees rarely access messages that are more than a few days old, says Seddon. After agreeing on the timing, it was fairly simple, using Symantec software, to access each employee’s e-mail and set time parameters, Seddon says.

The installation was seamless. The biggest surprise was that end-users didn’t even seem to notice a change. “They didn’t say anything, which is great,” he says.

Enterprise Vault costs about $51 annually per user, but pricing can vary by company and region. Seddon declined to discuss specific pricing or cost savings, but says that after four months with the solution, his firm hasn’t needed any of the more expensive Fibre disks for e-mail and doesn’t expect to “anytime soon.”

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