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E-mail archiving: Hot or not?

Compliance issues have increased the requirements for e-mail retention. But budgetary constraints and other time-sensitive projects keep e-mail archiving on the back burner for many corporations.

If today's compliance laws mean anything to your company, it's wise to have an efficient system in place for archiving your company's e-mail.

So why is archiving still a distant plan for many organizations?

When legislators passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, the intention was to make corporations more accountable and to set guidelines for proper record keeping. The legislation requires public companies to store all business records, including e-mail, for at least five years. Executives at companies that don't comply face fines and penalties, including possible jail time.

"Now, it's not enough just to dump e-mail somewhere -- you've got to be able to find it," said Erica Rugullies, a principal analyst at Forrester Research, a Cambridge, Mass., consulting firm.

Research conducted by Rugullies indicates that the market for e-mail archiving is growing -- from $197 million in 2003 to $994 million in 2006. "I would be surprised if you spoke to someone [who] did not consider it a priority," Rugullies said.

But while many IT administrators have e-mail archiving on their radar screens, budgetary constraints and more pressing projects keep it low on the to-do list.

Why are so many organizations still passing on archiving software?

"It's not in our foreseeable future," said Corey Allen, a network administrator with American Ingredients, a Kansas City, Mo., food emulsifiers and bakery ingredients supplier.

Allen said upgrading from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2003 and other Active Directory migration projects are the focus now. Until the migration is complete, e-mail archiving won't command any attention.

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With just 320 employees, American Ingredients is looking at a major investment when the company decides to install e-mail archiving.

"It would cost hundreds of thousands for a mid-sized company," said Rugullies. "For a large enterprise, it could cost well over a million [dollars]."

But Rugullies also warns that corporations, which are required to comply with strict record-keeping laws, are taking a risk if they don't take e-mail archiving seriously. Organizations that are not prepared with an archive system in place may find it costs more to address legal issues if they are audited.

"We get audited all the time, every day," said Patrick Dixon, a senior systems architect at Pepco Holdings Inc., a utility that serves the Washington, D.C., and suburban Maryland area. Dixon said his company is trying to make do with the system they have in place because purchasing a message archiving system is too expensive.

He declined to get into details about the way Pepco stores electronic messages without archiving but said no changes were in the immediate future. "The feeling is that the way we deal with it now is good enough," Dixon said. "We don't need to go over and above."

Compliance with new laws means companies are saving messages longer, but the budget-busting effects of deploying an archive system mean e-mail still has a shelf life. WellStar Health System, an Atlanta-based conglomeration of five hospitals and 50 physician sites, is concerned about record-keeping in accordance with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).

However, e-mail has not become a main concern yet, according to Ken Roberts, the group's network administrator. "We do archive medical records and things of that nature that are required by law," Roberts said. "But in terms of general data, e-mail, it's not as extensive."

For now, he said, WellStar leaves it up to end users to decide what to save. They have the option of saving anything noteworthy for 90 days, and it sits an additional 14 days in the trash.

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