White House Lawsuit Highlights E-mail Archiving Challenge

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When it comes to email archiving, even the White House can't seem to get it right. The Washington Post recently reported that the Bush admininistration is being sued for failing to preserve millions of e-mails, a violation of the Federal Records Act.

For the record, the White House rejects the charge. Moreover, the alleged problem is not confined to the GOP. The Clinton administration suffered its fair share of e-mail controversies, including the loss of hundreds of thousands of e-mails.

Politics aside, if the White House can be sued for failure to maintain an adequate e-mail archive, any organization is at risk. That is, assuming it faces the same requirement. And a growing number of organizations - both public and private - are, indeed, required to maintain secure, accessible electronic records, per the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Sarbanes-Oxley, the U.S. Patriot Act, HIPAA, SEC rules, and countless state laws and corporate policies.

Even companies that do not fall directly under a government or institution regulation for email archiving may be at risk. When such a company does business with regulated organizations, it finds itself increasingly, though indirectly, affected by the regulations imposed on its business partners.

In addition to regulatory compliance issues, demand for e-mail archiving comes from exploding use of e-mail and instant messaging. The Radicati Group estimated that a typical corporate e-mail account sent and received approximately 16.4 MB of data per day in 2006. By 2010, the amount is expected to reach 21 MB. Companies need a way to store and manage this growing mountain of electronic messages.

Clearly, e-mail archiving is quickly moving from a luxury to a necessity for a growing number of organizations, especially in the small and medium business market. So, how do SMBs, local governments, and other organizations handle e-mail archiving?

Sadly, many simply choose to ignore the requirement because they think they can't afford to meet it. Most solutions are too expensive, in terms of financial, human resources and technology commitments. Other organizations, including the White House, archive their e-mail using inadequate solutions, e.g., backup tapes, their e-mail system, or a combination of both.

The trouble is, e-mail systems have no archiving functionality, per se. And tapes can only store what is found on the server at the time of back up. E-mails can easily be deleted or altered prior to backup. Worse, retrieving e-mail from tape can take months and costs millions of dollars.

What SMBs and Enterprise organizations need is a cost-effective email archiving solution that is both powerful and simple - simple to deploy, simple to manage, and simple to use. Ideally, an e-mail archive will:

• archive, index, retrieve, and dynamically monitor e-mail and instant messages, including message headers, bodies, and attachments (word processing documents, spreadsheets, and .PDF files);
• send policy-driven, real-time notifications of compliance or governance infractions;
• verify the integrity of archived messages to ensure they have not been edited or otherwise altered;
• give end-users, compliance officers, and systems administrators a rich user interface as well as various e-mail client plug-ins;
• work with Microsoft Exchange, Novell GroupWise, Lotus Notes, as well as outsourced mail services;
• work with enterprise encryption technologies;
• be implemented in hours instead of weeks; and
• be cost-effective, e.g., $50 per user for an in-house (v. outsourced) solution.

As the White House case demonstrates, the threat of non-compliance lawsuits is real. The threat of system crashes due to storage capacity shortfalls is also real. E-mail archiving offers real insurance against both risks. And contrary to popular perception, e-mail archiving is not inherently expensive or complex. With solutions available today that are affordable, powerful, and easy to use, organizations of any size can begin properly archiving their electronic messages.

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Occupation: President & CEO, Jatheon Technologies Inc.
Kieron Dowling is president and CEO of Jatheon Technologies, Inc., the designer, developer, and marketer of an industry-leading, non-intrusive network appliance simplifying archiving, indexing, retrieval and dynamic monitoring of corporate e-mail and messaging data. Learn more about Jatheon at http://www.jatheon.com, and contact Kieron at kdowling@jatheon.com.

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