How muddled is the message on e-mail archiving? When Contoural Inc., a data and storage consulting firm, surveyed Fortune 500 companies, it found that one-third of the companies in the sample saved all e-mail, one-third deleted some messages and one-third didn't know what to do.
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"There's a lot of fear, uncertainty and doubt about e-mail archiving," said Mark Diamond, president, Contoural. "This is clearly on the mind of senior management and attorneys, but a lot of companies aren't really sure what to archive or how much it's going to cost."
At a recent e-mail archiving seminar sponsored by WinStorage magazine (a partner of SearchDomino.com), Diamond and colleague Bill Tolson, principal analyst at Contoural, offered messaging and storage administrators advice on planning and implementing an e-mail archiving strategy.
Start with a policy
First things first. A company needs a data retention policy, preferably not one that's dated 1992 or that contains the word "paper." While it may be tempting to have the legal department create this policy itself, everyone -- HR, customer support, finance, IT and legal -- needs to get involved, Diamond said.
Most companies cite compliance as the impetus for archiving, but archiving policies should also take into consideration storage costs, effects on business productivity, privacy concerns and new trends in litigation, Diamond said.
A good policy will also require nothing of an end user. One of Contoural's clients drafted a 300-page document retention schedule and told users to save everything themselves. Bad idea. Instead, let end users know that not only is every e-mail being saved, but that any e-mail has the potential to end up on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, Tolson said. "You do this in training and it'll cut down on the number of questionable e-mails," he added.
Determine your needs
Policy in hand, the next step is deciding on an archiving solution. Here are a few factors that will determine how comprehensive your solution should be. (To help answer the obvious question -- "How much space will I need?" -- Coutoural offers a storage requirements calculator.)
Don't sweat the small stuff, spam
E-mail only makes up 5-10% of a typical company's data space, Diamond said. Of that space, more than 90% is occupied by attachments; of that remainder, only one message out of 10 is a personal one. So, Diamond advised, don't waste time weeding out the "where should we go for lunch" e-mails.
And for archiving purposes, spam shouldn't be a concern either. "If it was never intended to be viewed by a human," Diamond said, "you don't have to save it."
Our e-mail archiving seminar series with Mark Diamond and Bill Tolson is coming to a city near you, for the latest dates and locations click here.