Manage e-mail and IM info-glut
- By Mathew Schwartz
As the use of e-mail and instant
messaging for business communications
has grown, so too has
another problem: storing and managing
Thanks to a variety of regulations
and the potential of a court issuing
a subpoena for their business
records, probably all enterprises
must ensure they have copies of
e-mail and IM stored securely, and
be able to retrieve them quickly.
Having to retain a vast number
of messages of all kinds is creating
a glut of information for enterprises
and a storage nightmare for
IT. In a 2004 survey conducted by
Osterman Research, 62 percent of
organizations said the growth in
messaging storage was "a serious or
very serious problem, second only
to the problem of spam."
To manage the info-glut, "businesses
must begin building an
e-mail archive for legal discovery
and migration of older messages to
lower-cost, but searchable, media,"
notes a Gartner Dataquest report
from earlier this year. Increasingly,
those archives also include instant
messages, even if
IM isn't written explicitly
into a regulation.
So far, however, organizations
are behind the curve. According
to a new study sponsored by
AIIM and ARMA International,
49 percent of 2,100 records and
information managers surveyed at
companies and government agencies
say their organizations have
not adopted an e-mail records retention
policy. Further, 53 percent
of organizations don't think electronic
communications count as
part of legal orders to hold records,
and 68 percent don't have a plan for
migrating electronic communications
to new media over time.
"Good business and good
records management go hand in
hand," notes ARMA's executive
director and CEO, Peter Hermann.
"Good governance requires
compliance and the proper management
of records and information—regardless of the media on
which they are created or stored—and is the key to any organization's
Managing content, but
without a system
If the need to search and retrieve
large amounts of text seems to have
a lot in common with another enterprise
systems experts would agree.
"You might, very reasonably, argue
that e-mail archiving and retention
products are really just a niche in the
enterprise content management
space," says David Ferris, president
and senior analyst of Ferris Research.
"In principal, this seems correct.
After all, e-mail documents are just
one type of data structure."
Today's content management
systems, however, can't effectively
manage an enterprise's e-mail
archives, and although CMS products
will eventually include such
capabilities, Ferris estimates it
won't happen for another 5 years. So
for now, "e-mail message stores will
still be specialized, obscure technologies,"
which for already
overworked IT managers, "will keep
e-mail archiving and retention technologies
as an annoyingly separate category."
Even so, Gartner Dataquest warns
regulated organizations to master
the technology now. "The
e-mail active archiving market
is fragmented, but companies
may need to purchase a product
now as a tactical solution
while a broader enterprise content
management strategy, including records
and document management, is defined."
Weighing IM storage
Beyond storing e-mails, should businesses
also retain IMs? According to Forrester
Research analyst Erica Rugullies, consider
IM archiving if your organization
meets one of two criteria: First, is it a financial
services firm? If so, regulations
from the SEC, the NASD and the NYSE
may cover you.
Second, is your company covered by
Sarbanes-Oxley? While that law doesn't
explicitly mandate e-mail or IM retention,
Forrester advises that in these early
days of compliance, play it safe: archive.
In particular, the law "says that any client
of a public accounting firm may be required
to produce documents related to
audits or investigations," notes Rugullies.
In the future, "it is conceivable that these
items could include e-mails and IMs."
Things are more clear-cut for financial
services firms, especially when it
comes to individual brokers' and dealers'
e-mails and IMs. Per NASD Conduct
Rule 3010, financial firms must archive
them. Then according to SEC Rule 17a,
financial firms must keep all business
records—which the NYSE defines as
including e-mails and IMs—readily accessible
for at least 2 years, and all transaction-related communications for 7
years. Organizations must also produce
such communications quickly as part of
a court-ordered discovery process.
While companies covered by SOXare
still, for the most part, in a gray zone when
it comes to accountability, many other financial
regulations are already being enforced.
Earlier this year the NASD "fined
a research analyst at Fulcrum Global Partners
for circulating rumors about a
company via IM and phone calls,
while simultaneously shortselling
that company's stock,"
For simplicity of storage, management
and retrieval, she also recommends
organizations archive IMs in
the same place they store e-mail message
archives. "This enables a consistently applied
policy, a single place in which to perform
supervision activities, a reduced
number of locations for search and discovery,
and reduced training requirements,
as well as standardization of
storage management practices."
Someday a change will come
According to Ferris, the e-mail archiving
market, which began about 5 years ago and
so far lacks integration with existing CMS
software, is still in its infancy. Even so, notable
changes are occurring. "Hitherto,
most e-mail archiving purchases have been
tactical—motivated by either storage
management or regulatory compliance."
Today, things are shifting slightly. "Discovery
and archiving for compliance have
now become the main purchase drivers,"
he notes. With compliance, end users' requirements
are simple: get it running. As a
result, "functional considerations generally
take a back seat to acquisition and implementation
costs as decision criteria."
Once organizations get their compliance-
related archiving systems running,
end users' priorities will change. In fact, by
2008 or 2010, expect to see a much more
strategic approach to e-mail and IM
archiving, says Ferris. "E-mail will be seen
as just another content type with Word
documents, Web pages and perhaps even
voice and video content."
ILLUSTRATION BY PETER GILLIGAN