One look at the numbers makes it clear that e-mail
The most recent AIIM user survey reveals that 63 percent of organizations have little or no confidence that e-mails related to commitments and obligations made by themselves and their staff are recorded, complete and recoverable.
Meanwhile, 63 percent of respondents to a Storage Magazine survey report they've been asked to perform a legal or compliance request, with 73 percent recovering that data from backup tape (and 29 percent from backup disk). But asked how confident they are that they could meet e-discovery requests, 47 percent of the Storage respondents are only 'somewhat confident.' Ten percent are 'not at all confident.' Still, 64 percent have made no technology purchases specifically for e-discovery, even though the e-discovery process for relevant e-mails can take months.
As the Storage Magazine survey reveals, a request to find litigation-related e-mail sends most IT departments to a collection of backup tapes, which are used to recreate inboxes and then searched for e-mails. The time and expense can be exorbitant, and the results are less than definitive.
Backups are not Archives
Backup tapes (and disks) are not an archive. Rather, they are snapshots in time of everything that is on the e-mail server at the time of the backups. Compared to an e-mail archive, backup tape falls short in two ways. First, backup tapes don't archive all e-mail messages; and second, backup tapes slow down e-mail retrieval.
An e-mail archive automatically stores, indexes, and retrieves individual e-mail messages and file attachments in real time. All inbound, outbound, and internal e-mails are archived, regardless of how long they live on the e-mail server. If a user sent an e-mail to a co-worker and minutes later, both users deleted all traces of that e-mail, the e-mail archive still retains a copy of that e-mail. In contrast, backup tapes don't maintain copies of e-mails exchanged between backups or retain copies of e-mails deleted by users after the backup is replaced with a newer one.
Better still, the e-mail archive index makes it much easier to retrieve an e-mail, because IT staff -- and in some cases, end users -- can search on parameters such as sender, recipient, subject line, date sent, etc. With backup tape, users have no corresponding search capability and must instead manually search for e-mail.
Responding to the Regulators
Increasingly, companies are falling directly or indirectly under the purview of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Sarbanes-Oxley, the U.S. Patriot Act, HIPAA, SEC rules, state laws and corporate policies. These regulations often specify the retention period and the timely production of all relevant electronic documentation in response to litigation.
Companies depending on backup tape are rarely able to meet regulators' demands for completeness or timeliness. In fact, AIIM asked its users, 'If your organization was sued by a former customer or citizen, how long would it take to produce all of the information related to that person?' and 27 percent answered more than one month.
Of course, some organizations may never get involved in litigation, which would be ideal. Such organizations might view e-mail archiving as just an insurance policy -- prudent but ultimately unneeded. A better view would be to look at e-mail archiving as an information advantage.
E-mail Archive and the Information Advantage
By some estimates, organizations store 75 percent of their intellectual property in electronic messages. E-mail accounts for 97 percent of business communications, including e-mails for orders, which are accepted by 79 percent of businesses. Business users spend an average of 19 percent of their workday using e-mail, and corporate e-mail traffic will double by 2009, from 64.9 to 120 billion messages a day.
These numbers simply reiterate the cornerstone role e-mail plays in today's organizations. And they suggest that companies expand their view of e-mail archiving. More than insurance against non-compliance lawsuits or system crashes due to storage capacity shortfalls, an e-mail archive is a gateway to a growing repository of organizational intelligence. In short, e-mail archiving can provide a better understanding of the company, its customers, and its opportunities for growth and improvement. And that kind of revenue-generating point of view might just encourage more companies to embrace the e-mail archiving advantage.