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One size doesn't fit all e-mail archive policies and products

The rules for e-mail archiving vary from one organization to the next. IT should start the ball rolling before it gets the legal department involved in rules for message archiving.

Internal policies regarding e-mail archiving and data retention usually start with a company's legal department, but it would be better if it began with the IT department.

IT managers should be involved in the beginning stages of developing an e-mail-retention policy within their organization, rather than just waiting for the legal department to initiate a program.

"We believe it is important for you to get in on the ground floor," said Mark Diamond, president of Contoural Inc., in Los Altos, Calif., a data storage and consulting firm. "There is a temptation on the part of IT to say 'I'll wait for them to create policy,'" he said.

In most corporations, the legal department does not have the technical expertise that is necessary to decide which products will be appropriate for their individual archiving needs. IT managers know what to consider before purchasing an archive product from a vendor, Diamond said.

Currently, many organizations still don't have rules set in place for e-mail retention. But legislation, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX), mandates it for public companies. As Diamond put it: Regulators now want you to save more, find it easily and get it back quickly. But without any real policy in place yet, in many cases, IT administrators are relying on the end user to decide what to save and what to trash.

"If you are telling end users to delete what they think isn't important, there is some level of risk there," said Dave Campbell, a senior product manager at Symantec Corp., in Cupertino, Calif. Campbell said Symantec's product, Veritas Enterprise Vault, was developed to eliminate the need for end users to tag what should be saved.

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On the other hand, Campbell said, some companies face the dilemma of having too much saved. "We serve a lot of law firms. They want to save all e-mail related to cases," Campbell said. When choosing an archive system, companies may want to choose one that includes categorization capabilities, Campbell said.

George Bentley, a systems support specialist with Day, Berry & Howard LLP, a Hartford, Conn., law firm, said his firm recently began using EAS for Exchange, made by Zantaz Inc., in Pleasanton, Calif., after realizing that the firm's e-mail retention schedule was out of date. "With about 300 attorneys on staff, PSTs [personal storage files] were getting out of hand," said Bentley.

Although the company is archiving, Bentley said they have not developed a formal compliance plan yet. End users are still the ones who decide what gets saved.

"We are giving legal advice to our own clients on this issue," Bentley said. "It's ironic that we don't have our own policy in place."

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