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Outsourcing email archiving: the pros and cons

Ezine

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Outsourcing e-mail archiving also became interesting when regulators and litigators began targeting message repositories for evidence in a variety of cases. ESG estimates that approximately 75% of electronic discovery events involve e-mails. While e-mails regarding Enron and Martha Stewart grabbed headlines, thousands of other organizations and their outside counsel have sifted through old and new e-mails to prepare for cases ranging from executive malfeasance to employer discrimination. Just as many financial services organizations weren't ready to manage e-mail as a business record, other organizations weren't prepared for the deluge of subpoenas that included discovery requests for messages. Many turned to e-mail archiving outsourcing; old messages were restored into an online archive and new e-mails were captured in real-time to create a repository that could be accessed by attorneys.

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This leads to the second impediment of e-mail archiving adoption--the belief that the solution is strictly for compliance and legal discovery. This myth endures because many users who are interested in e-mail archiving turn to service providers that only have offerings built around compliance and litigation support. A customer can rarely find a service provider that offers mailbox management as a service.

Users who want to reap the benefits of e-mail archiving, but can't deploy it in-house, should demand it from service providers. And service providers should wake up and add offerings for those users who aren't subject to retention regulations or frequent electronic discovery events.

If the advantages of e-mail archiving for compliance were more apparent, many more users could measure the impact of reduced storage costs, longer online retention of historical e-mail (removal of mailbox quotas), faster data protection operations and other resource management benefits derived from e-mail archiving. Service providers could easily help organizations deliver the more IT-specific benefits of e-mail archiving. When asked, the top reason why users would consider using a service provider for e-mail archiving is to get a solution in place quickly, protect data offsite and reduce operating costs--not for compliance purposes. (See "Top five reasons why organizations would consider using an e-mail archiving service provider," above.)

It's hard to imagine the litigious business climate changing dramatically in the near term, and as long as e-mail is the primary means of workplace communication and collaboration, e-mail archiving solutions will be needed. Service providers have expanded their offerings to include e-mail data restoration from tape, and some have integrated litigation-support software with e-mail archiving apps to expand review and trial preparation processes. Other outsourcers have complemented archive offerings with data backup services. Service providers can also improve their offerings by archiving other types of content, including databases and files.

This was first published in October 2006

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