Rein in e-mail storage


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Mark Diamond, CEO and president of the storage consulting company Contoural Inc., Los Altos, CA, thinks every e-mail should be saved. When organizations have e-mail deletion policies in place, Diamond says, users end up storing e-mails on local drives, CD-ROMs or elsewhere. In the short term, deletion policies may keep down the cost of storage, but in the long term they drive up the cost of management and discovery, Diamond says.

Keeping the right e-mails is a huge problem. Organizations need to spend a disproportionate amount of time and money to filter all of their e-mails to find out what to keep and what to toss. Rather than doing that, he encourages organizations to consider saving all of their e-mail to help ensure compliance.

That requires policies that archive storage by transparently moving it between different types of disk media in the background. This permits older messages to remain online and accessible by users at a nominal cost to organizations, while allowing the organization to search and access it in the background.

To get ahead of the curve, Diamond recommends that the CFO, general counsel, general compliance officer and records management director of large organizations meet to determine what they need to save in the most effective way. Smaller and midsize organizations should look either to their CFO or director of IT for leadership in this decision. As they meet and form policy, they need to have a clear understanding of the business drivers and problems they are trying to solve and steer clear of the technology.

The e-mail administrator closes her eyes, grits her teeth and agonizes over the latest corporate e-mail mandate. Management wants e-mail cleaned up. Internal reports tell them that users aren't deleting old e-mails as they promised.

In fact, some users are still keeping 2GB mailboxes containing four-year-old e-mail messages. But with new compliance regulations, explosive e-mail growth rates and little money for new storage, the tolerance for user excess is at an end. As a result, management wants something done now.

Doing something is always the easy part--not infuriating users is the difficult part. Avoiding outages and minimizing the downtime for general maintenance procedures becomes extremely critical with e-mail now a 24x7 mission-critical application in almost every business. So, do existing or new features in Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Domino and Novell GroupWise offer any hope?

E-mail administrators need experienced storage managers to start to intervene to help them manage the burgeoning storage growth behind their e-mail infrastructure. The latest releases of the major e-mail packages do give e-mail administrators some additional options for limiting and reducing message retention periods and storage requirements. Yet for large or rapidly growing environments, organizations need storage experts to help them better manage their e-mail databases, content and aging messages.

As storage managers step in, they should look to third-party providers such as KVS Inc. in Arlington, TX, Lucid8 in New Castle, WA, and ZipLip Inc., located in Mountain View, CA, to help them. For example, Lucid8's GOexchange software automatically checks Microsoft Exchange 5.5, 2000 and 2003 databases for consistency, while correcting errors and reducing the e-mail database size in the process. KVS' Enterprise Vault for Exchange allows users to think they have a mailbox of unlimited size, but transparently archives and compresses their storage in the background.

Another product, ZipLip's Unified E-mail Archival Suite, includes built-in security that encrypts and authenticates archived e-mail for Domino, Exchange and GroupWise databases.

With products like these now available to support mission critical e-mail applications, organizations need to rethink how--and who--should be managing their back-end e-mail storage problems. Storage managers can make a major contribution toward solving them on four fronts.

First, they can help organizations measure and report on their e-mail infrastructure to give them some direction on how to proceed. Second, they can reduce the amount of e-mail currently under management by filtering, deleting, compressing or just plain deleting it. Third, they can deploy the appropriate backend levels of storage to house the data. And lastly, they can improve the quality and types of backups and restores available by incorporating advanced snapshots and replication features into their products.

This was first published in February 2004

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