On any given day, a resident of the City of Orlando can call the municipal offices and ask to see all the emails that, let's say, the chief of police sent out and received in January 2002. They also might receive a request the same week, or even the same day, from someone asking to see all the emails sent in March relating to the fire department.
For John Matelski, deputy chief information officer for the city, it's an organizational and storage nightmare. But with the aid of email archiving, he tries to think of it as just a challenge.
"It's a storage challenge. That's how I like to look at it," says Matelski, whose WAN supports more than 100 facilities and whose department supports 2,500 email accounts. "Since we live in Florida, we're subject to the Florida Sunshine Laws, which say that all government activities are open to the public and all government business transactions must be provided...How you do that is up to you. But I can't print it all out and put it in a folder. Automating that process is critical."
The City of Orlando is part of a new trend picking up on a relatively old idea -- email archiving.
With a majority of business users relying on email more than the telephone when it comes to business communications, an ever-increasing amount of critical information is passing through a company's email system. Sendmail, Inc., a company that sells email archiving technology, reports that 60% of business critical information is stored within corporate messaging systems. That's up from 33% just four years ago. Sendmail also states that an average IT administrator spends five to six hours a week recovering old messages, since more than 80% of end users cannot recover them on their own.
Email in today's corporate world holds a company's critical information. In emails, financial expectations are discussed. Stocks might be suggested. Sales are made. Customers make complaints. Companies make promises.
And it's all recorded in email.
Now a growing number of businesses are realizing that they need to save these emails. And they can't just pack them away like receipts you toss in a box at home. They need to be organized. They need to be easily accessible. When an archived email is needed, you don't want to have to call in half the IT team just to find it.
New Regulations Driving the Need to Archive
"There's a lot of buzz in the industry about email archiving right now, and it's mainly being driven by regulations coming down saying you have to save and be able to retrieve certain kinds of data," reports Doug Chandler, program director for storage services at IDC, an industry analyst firm based in Framingham, Mass. "It's difficult because if you haven't been saving this stuff in an organized way, the ability to go in and pull up certain messages from certain days five years ago is not an easy thing to do. You have to have sophisticated software and trained people to manage this process."
And there are a lot of new regulations -- HIPAA, the FDA, SEC, Employee Privacy Regulations -- that have rules for various industries governing what information must be retained and for how long. The health care industry and financial services are the two industries generally considered to be the hardest hit, but the idea behind the regulations -- credibility and not a little CYA (cover your assets) -- is spreading from industry to industry.
These regulations, coupled with companies' fears of law suits, are pushing the need to archive. David Ferris, president of San Francisco-based Ferris Research, says there's a $200 million email archiving market this year, and he expects it to experience 50% to 100% growth over each of the next four years.
For now, Matelski at the City of Orlando is using the archiving feature in Lotus Notes 6.0 to make sure the city's employees are meeting the requirements of the state's Sunshine Laws. The emails are archived locally on the individual hard drives, and each employee is provided with a backup mechanism and the training to use it.
Matelski says the employees are able to access and successfully search through their own archives without the help of the IT department, saving Matelski and his workers an untold amount of time and distraction.
"That would be a great burden," he says. "If I have to assist any of those 2,500 people, there's no way I could appropriately staff to accommodate that many requests."
Archiving to SANs
The deputy chief information officer also says they are looking into buying a standalone email archiving package to enable them to archive to a Storage Area Network.
IDC's Chandler says until they do, Matelski and his team won't officially be archiving.
"Technically speaking, archiving is treated as a permanent copy being saved in a secondary location," says Chandler. "I wouldn't call it archiving if you're talking about putting it on someone's PC hard disk. They're using that storage space everyday. You need to create a permanent copy somewhere so you can save it for five or seven years or more."
The issue is that it's an expensive and complex endeavor.
For Tony Spruill, a senior program analyst at Kemet Electronics Corp., a 6,000-employee company based in South Carolina, it's an expensive proposition that his company is simply going to have to take. If Kemet employees don't start archiving, the company will have to keep upgrading its email storage capacity. And that process has gotten old fast.
"We're losing drive space because of the rate that the mail files are growing," says Spruill, who adds Kemet just upgraded its mail servers and installed a data storage network to deal with their increasingly high mail volume. "We'll double our space and a year later we're out of space again."
Right now, Kemet is employing the archiving feature in Lotus Notes 6.0, just like the City of Orlando. Spruill says it is helping, but it's only a 'stop gap' for the problem. They've looked at IBM's Common Store and like what they've seen -- everything except the price tag, that is. But he's hopeful they can adopt it soon.
"There's a lot of document transaction and emails that each department thinks they need to keep forever," says Spruill. "Accounting, customer sales -- they all have emails they need to store away. And for them, archiving is important."
This story originally appeared on Datamation.
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