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E-mail Management Derailed By Regulations

Everyone wants a say in e-mail management.

Compliance officers want to keep e-mail forever. Ditto users. Legal counsel only wants e-mail around as long as it positively has to be. And IT staff just wants to conserve storage and keep its e-mail servers up and running.

No doubt about it: "There are definitely conflicting needs between compliance people--who want to retain everything--and IT folks, who want to keep their storage pools under control," says Matt Kivlin, director of product management at Iron Mountain.

But unfortunately for companies struggling with both compliance and IT aspects of e-mail, solutions that directly address both issues are few and far between.

Take Archive One, from e-mail management software provider C2C, in Reading, England. It will sell you either Archive One Compliance or Archive One Capacity, depending on what your goal is.

Why not combine the two? "We believe that compliance is so important that you shouldn't mix the two," says Jon Brown, C2C director of North America. "If you need to demonstrate compliance, the e-mail needs to be kept in a store that can not be tampered with," such as optical disk drives and DVDs; or for enterprise customers, disk-based systems such as EMC's Centera. Whatever the case, this translates into more--not less--storage media to manage overall.

To make matters worse for IT folks, many compliance-focused e-mail archiving systems place an additional burden on your mail servers, as they rely on the messaging system's journaling feature. C2C's Brown estimates that journaling adds about 15% additional overhead to already busy servers. "For every one e-mail that comes into your system, you have to send out two," Brown says.

In short, archiving for compliance will gain you absolutely nothing in terms of IT efficiencies. It will only increase the amount of storage capacity you need to maintain, and may place an additional burden on your email system.

But if you're in a regulated industry, that's life. "It's like Y2K--it's pure cost. There is no ROI, you just have to do it," Brown says.

On the other side of the fence, archiving e-mail for capacity management has many obvious benefits: By offloading messages from a mail server, you can get better performance and less planned and unplanned downtime. Features such as compression and single-instance message stores reduce overall amounts of storage capacity--or increase the amount of mail that users can keep. All these things translate into happier IT staff and users.

Take Channel Thirteen, a Public Broadcasting Service member station in New York City. Before implementing Enterprise Vault from KVS, managing its 1,000 mailbox Exchange 5.5 environment was "a tremendous headache," recalls Ken Winston, director of network technology at the station. In particular, Winston's group struggled with users that didn't respect 100MB mailbox quotas, and problematic .pst file management. But with Enterprise Vault in place, "its better for us [IT], and it's better for the end users."

Building a single product that can address both capacity and compliance is a huge technical feat, says Kon Leong, president and CEO of ZipLip, whose Email Management Platform he claims does just that. Nevertheless, a couple compliance-focused vendors are going to give it a try. Iron Mountain recently announced a partnership with Legato whereby it will resell its EmailXtender product in addition to its off-site Email Archiving Services targeted at the financial services industry.

In a similar vein, Zantaz, which also has a hosted e-mail archiving solution, recently purchased Educom, a Canadian e-mail management provider whose Exchange Archive Solution (EAS) provides an onsite compliant archive and also focuses on reducing server load.

But users shouldn't get their hopes up for an integrated, unified solution that addresses both compliance and server bloat--at least not in the short term.

The Iron Mountain/Legato partnership, for example, won't translate into a single archiving product for customers--just a single point of contact. If you need compliance, you'll still use Iron Mountain's hosted Email Archive Service, and if you want to offload older e-mails from your primary Exchange servers, you'll install EmailXtender on-site. Similarly, Zantaz plans to offer Educom's EAS and its hosted Digital Safe as two separate products, at least for a while.

Eventually, though, the two shall meet, says Iron Mountain's Kivlin. "As the dust settles, we hope to reconcile the two systems, and build a one-stop solution so customers can stop paying for twice the storage."

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