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Outsourcing email archiving: the pros and cons

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In the context of electronic discovery, attorneys have requested financial statements, medical records, digital images, and a host of other data that resides in databases and application files. E-mail has certainly been the most requested content type, but ESG expects that, over time, all data formats will be subject to discovery requests. It's never too early for organizations to prepare for the inevitable--all electronic data will be discoverable.

Resource management benefits, such as offloading production data from primary systems and retaining nontransactional data online at a lower cost, also apply to database and file archiving. In addition, other types of business records may be retained within these data formats and be subject to regulations such as HIPAA and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. By consolidating archiving processes, organizations can compound the benefits of compliance, electronic discovery and resource management. Service providers can offload the risk and cost of deploying database and file archiving to help users achieve these benefits sooner.

E-mail archiving outsourcing has experienced rapid growth due primarily to external factors--regulatory compliance and electronic discovery. Four years ago, service providers offered a quick way for customers to retain messages without the headache and expense of deploying an in-house system. As the market for these services peaked, some service providers included

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message security and content-filtering services, but those features did little to sway buyers. Part of the blame falls on users failing to demand more resource-optimization services from outsourcers.

For users to experience all of the benefits e-mail archiving has to offer, they need to decide whether they want to do it in-house or with a service provider. But that's an argument for another day. Outsourcers must realize that a majority of users need services such as mailbox management, database and file-system archiving, litigation support and data protection.

Outsourcing may always provoke controversy, but if e-mail archiving service providers don't expand their portfolios, the only topics under discussion this time next year will be how many of these vendors will be left and where stranded customers will wind up. It's up to you to put pressure on these service providers to ensure that they not only meet your current needs, but can grow with you as well.

This was first published in October 2006

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