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End-user tools
Right now, most searches are performed by storage administrators or other IT personnel, a natural development as storage managers are typically those who acquire and implement archiving applications. "These tools are still too new to be in the hands of the users," says Greg Forest, Contoural's vice president of services delivery. Although with e-mail archivers, users are increasingly doing the search queries themselves.

But the trend is toward more user-friendly interfaces so that legal, HR and compliance personnel can do the searches themselves, and view and analyze the results immediately. In a recent Osterman Research Inc. survey commissioned by Mimosa Systems Inc., the maker of NearPoint, a Microsoft Exchange archiving product, more than 77% of the respondents indicated that they want their archive/search applications to have end-user tools to reduce the reliance on IT.

Blackmont Capital's Erdelyi agrees, and is currently moving the responsibility for searching the Fortiva archives into his user community. "We've trained our compliance and our legal departments so they're able to perform the searches themselves," he says. Turning searching over to his users will also help Erdelyi manage the company's e-mail system better, rather than enforcing mailbox quotas. Quotas tend to result in users dumping mail into .PST files that consume disk capacity, slow backups and create the potential for legal exposure. By letting

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e-mail users use the search functions to find individual archived messages, Erdelyi hopes to discourage the use of .PSTs. "They'll always have access to [their messages] using Fortiva," he says.

Search federation
Two undeniable factors will affect the direction that search tools take: The amount of data that companies have to retain will continue to grow and finding specific pieces of that data will become more difficult. Most archiving tools in use today are for e-mail, file systems and databases. For the most part, these are discrete tools designed to integrate with specific apps. If a company uses several different archivers, they're also likely to have several associated search tools.

Ultimately, the proliferation of search tools will become unwieldy and the likelihood of missing something critical will increase. One solution may be an overall archiver/searcher that can work with data from multiple apps. But Contoural's Diamond warns users to "be careful about one-size-fits-all systems, because what's unacceptable is to have your archiving systems slow down the performance of the applications from which they're archiving data."

EDDix's Clark agrees, saying there will be "multiple vendors [and] special-purpose archives." If Clark and others are correct, that scenario opens the door for a search-only product that doesn't do any archiving, but can access multiple vendors' archives. Clark says vendors that develop those solutions will "position themselves as the hub in a hub-and-spoke model where they will be able to provide data mining, analysis and other tools independent of who the [archiving] vendor is." A number of products are evolving toward this model, such as MetaLincs Corp.'s MetaLincs 2.0, an e-discovery product that supports many of the popular e-mail archives and has a roadmap that calls for extending support to other applications.

Standards would facilitate the development of federated search products, but e-discovery experts say there's little, if any, activity in that area at this time. It's more likely that some of the archive players will cede search development to the search-only vendors and provide those vendors with the appropriate APIs so that their products will be interoperable. That, of course, shifts the responsibility to users, who must ensure that the archive and search applications are, indeed, compatible.

This was first published in April 2006

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