Tame e-mail storage - before it eats you alive


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Gartner's four steps to e-mail sanity

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Identify areas of risk (legal, regulatory and security) and deploy business practices and technologies to mitigate.
Make e-mail archiving policies consistent with policies regarding paper documents and faxes.
Develop an e-mail policy that defines essential vs. nonessential e-mail, along with the associated retention practices.
Be prepared to attack the e-mail data management problem through a variety of solutions that may need to be applied against multiple e-mail applications.

Outsourcing e-mail storage
Storage administrators keen to make a total break may want to outsource their archiving to a company such as Iron Mountain, which has expanded its core business in physical records management to include archiving of e-mail and other digital content.

Using secure VPN connections, enterprises keep a connection open to Iron Mountain's massive data center, which includes 34TB of managed online storage and continues to grow every day.

Content sent to Iron Mountain is digitally signed to verify its source, then indexed and locked down within the company's virtual vaults, which are the latest addition to its existing stores of more than 200 million cubic feet of paper records.To access archived records, employees use a standard Web interface to enter their search.

Iron Mountain's largest customer currently sends the company 20,000 e-mails a day, but the service can receive any type of digital document from applications written to an Iron Mountain-provided API.

Peter Delle Donne, president of Iron Mountain's Digital Archives Division, believes digital archiving will become a $200 million business for the company within five years. Part of this appeal is the fact that Iron Mountain's systems are built around policies that ensure records are managed according to established best practices and the requirements of SEC Rule 17a-4. This includes enforcement of deletion policies that track down and destroy every instance of an archived document or e-mail when it's reached a certain age.

That's a big time saver for storage managers, who can redirect their e-mail archiving to Iron Mountain and more or less never have to think about the messages again.

Sensing the potential to be part of a lucrative market, some vendors have tried to simplify storage managers' jobs by offering e-mail archiving appliances designed to be plugged in, installed and left alone.

So far, customers have given such a concept a cool reception. Michael Schutte, chief technology officer and founder of archiving appliance vendor Rising Edge Technologies, Herndon, VA, concedes the company has "not been very successful in selling e-mail archive appliances. Although many of the customers we meet like the idea of keeping e-mail accessible, they don't necessarily want such a system for their business."

Therein lies the challenge facing vendors: Own up to the e-mail monster they've created, offer a workable solution and help storage administrators use the technology to make their own storage requirements far more predictable than they have been in the past. As e-mail continues along its preordained mission to bury corporate networks, it's clear this is the best way to meet archival requirements while keeping your storage sanity.

This was first published in October 2002

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