Having compliance regulators demanding to see your files is tough enough, but how about the general public? In most counties, public records departments are obligated to disclose all information, including e-mail messages and attachments, on any topic related to city business. Try keeping up with that doing restores from tape.
But that's what Michael Lee Sherwood, chief information officer of the City of Oceanside, Calif., the third-largest city in San Diego County, was doing for a long time before installing Veritas Software Corp.'s Enterprise Vault. The software provides policy-based archiving and indexing of data held within Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft Office, SharePoint and file systems. For Sherwood, it was a life saver.
Since implementing the Enterprise Vault software, all e-mails that pass through the city's Exchange server are automatically indexed and stored in original format. The software also searches the archive, retrieves messages and packages the results quickly for inspection by the city attorney, who then delivers the records to the initial requestor.
Bogged down with requests
Sherwood said that prior to installing Enterprise Vault, the city spent far too much time meeting public records requests, particularly during election years. The City of Oceanside, with a population of 165,000, receives between 9,000 to 12,000 e-mails each day. Yet up until recently, their e-mail retention policy was to copy e-mails and attachments onto backup tapes. "But because every employee managed his or her own e-mail account, messages and attachments that should have been saved were sometimes accidentally deleted," Sherwood said.
For each public records request, Sherwood's staff had to retrieve boxes of tapes from an off-site location and spend days searching each tape for relevant files. "Meeting a request that involved only a few e-mails could take anywhere from eight to 20 hours," Sherwood said.
Peter Gerr, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass., said that creating an online index to search and retrieve e-mails is vital to any organization that uses e-mail to do business. "Restoring from tapes is too slow and labor-intensive, and with federal regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPAA trickling down to the state and local level, it's important to have a readily available digital archive."
Other comparable products in the e-mail archiving space include Legato's EmailXtender, Ilumin's Assentor Archive, ArchiveStore from Connected (now owned by Iron Mountain) and Exchange Archive Solution from Zantaz. Gerr predicts archiving software that includes litigation support software and also stores and retrieve files for legal cases will be come more prominent as more e-mails become records of business. "Only Zantaz and Ilumin currently include litigation support in the products," Gerr added.
For now, the City of Oceanside's IT department is happy to be able to fulfill public records requests in minutes instead of days. This obviously translates into significant cost savings, particularly as the city coped with the increased requests that came in during this past election season.
Exactly how much are they saving? Sherwood said the City of Oceanside recoups the money spent to purchase and maintain Enterprise Vault if they use it for just a few requests a year. "Since we process roughly 30 requests a year, and more in an election year, the ROI is tremendous."