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Lawsuits drive email archiving

Litigation and compliance requirements are giving email archiving systems a higher profile in corporations.

As if IT managers didn't have enough to do, now many are being asked to help out the legal department.

Take, for example, the IT manager at a Midwestern company. He was asked to sign a document after his staff checked all of the servers and PCs for possible security risks, stating that he felt he and his staff had done their due diligence.

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Why? Because his company wanted a paper trail documenting that they had checked their systems.

"I was asked to certify that I felt that I found everything," said an IT manager at a recent TechTarget email archiving seminar in Chicago who asked not to be identified. "We checked all the servers and the PCs, gathered all the documents, but my ability to discover…?"

What the IT manager was talking about is e-discovery, which is the ability to quickly find electronic documents on demand. In some cases, this simply means helping users to find older information stored on a server rather than on their email accounts. But, increasingly, IT managers are being asked to store information to meet compliance regulations or produce documents at the behest of company attorneys as they prepare for lawsuits.

"The biggest driver for email archiving is e-discovery litigation," said Mark Diamond, president and CEO of Mountain View, Calif.-based data and storage consulting firm Contoural Inc. "I've seen companies just settle lawsuits because the cost of e-discovery could be millions."

Mistakes made on email deletion policy

One major mistake companies make when it comes to email archiving is their deletion policy, Diamond said. Many companies get rid of email after 30, 60 or 90 days.

"If you look at some of the lawsuits, perception plays a big role," he said. "It looks worse if you delete emails, even if it is a policy."

At the same time, many companies' legal teams will say that deleting email is the right policy, Diamond said, but users do not follow policy. If a policy is too stringent, users will save documents themselves by either sending information to their personal email, saving it on to a USB drive or a PST file in Outlook.

IT managers need to keep users and the legal department happy while being mindful of compliance and document-retention requirements when implementing an email archiving system, or the project will fail, said Diamond. Policy consensus on what to save and for how long is crucial. Email archiving projects will sit on the shelf without policies in place first, he said.

User education and cost are key

Another area where an email archiving system might fail is user education and cost, said Dominik Konkolski, network infrastructure architect for ComPsych Corp., a provider of employee assistance programs to about 10,000 companies.

"Everyone thinks that they need that document from 2002," Konkolski said. "You need to give them the information they need, but balance it with your costs. It's a very tricky situation," he said.

A successful email archiving system is one that is automated and based on policies, Konkolski said. The system should be intelligent so it saves documents based on those policies. For example, it should recognize duplicate attachments and save them for retrieval as one image, he said.

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