Email Archiving and eDiscovery

Today’s business world depends heavily on emails and it is the most preferred tool for communication. People need access to their emails on desktops, laptops, mobiles, tablets, etc. A study conducted by The Radicati Group estimates that on an average a corporate email user sends and receives 219 messages per day.

This steady flow of email messages means managing email is more difficult than ever. A company must provide employees constant access to their email accounts and manage copies of every important email to comply with regulatory requirements. If a company is faced with a lawsuit, it must have the ability to easily place legal holds on emails and conduct efficient e-discovery.

Since email is the source of so much vital information, users are reluctant to delete old messages, which turns their email system into a personal email filing cabinet. In essence, users create their own email archives using PST files.

So why do we need to archive emails?

Global and national Indian laws have deemed e-mail as legit evidence in the Court of Law. Some acts that are worth mentioning are Sarbanes-Oxley Act, HIPPA, Indian IT Act 2000 and multitude of others. Also acceptance in a electronic  form  of any offer, culminating into an electronic contract, has also been declared legal and enforceable.

Why PST is not a good archival solution?

PST files are Outlook data files that are sometimes used as a mechanism for message archiving or for avoiding mailbox quotas. Although PST files can be handy, it is best to avoid using them in an organization if possible. Here are a few reasons:

  • PST is not reliable: One of the big problems with PST files is that they are prone to corruption. When their maximum two-gigabyte size is pushed to the limit, PST files are vulnerable to data corruption.
  • PST files are local to device: Today it is common for users to access mailbox data from a variety of devices. They might access their mail from a PC while working at the office and from a smartphone while on the go. However, PST files are device specific. If the file’s owner leaves the company, the information in the PST file might never return to company control. A PST file stored on a laptop is unlikely to be encrypted, so if the laptop is lost or stolen, a thief would have ready access to the email stored in the machine.
  • PST has huge impact on storage and network: Imagine an email sent with a 1 MB attachment to 10 employees. The resultant PST for each 10 employees would mean 10 MB of storage for the enterprise. Most employees who use personal folders have multiple copies of documents stored in their PST files. Multiply that situation by hundreds of messages per user and hundreds or thousands of employees, and the impact on enterprise storage requirements is enormous.
  • PST files can be an e-discovery nightmare: Information contained in a PST file is considered a business record and is subject to discovery requirements, just like email. Data that is stored in a PST file exists outside of the mail server. As such, PST data is not analysed when you use e-discovery tools like the native Exchange Server e-discovery tool. Discovering an old mail using PSTs can be a herculean task of finding a needle in a giant haystack.

Why Email Archiving and eDiscovery?

Wikipedia states, “Electronic discovery (or e-discovery or eDiscovery) refers to discovery in civil litigation or government investigations which deals with the exchange of information in electronic format (often referred to as electronically stored information or ESI).”

Email is the main data source targeted during the eDiscovery process. Organizations need email discovery software that helps them quickly filter out irrelevant messages and identify those emails that are most critical to a given case or investigation. Companies with successful email management and retention strategies typically use a single email retention period. For example, three to five years. While emails often have attachments which will need to be retained pursuant to the company’s retention policy, the attachments should be retained in a separate location – where the particular type of record is ordinarily maintained – and not in a user’s inbox for other email folders as these may even be deleted – on purpose or accidently. For companies without an eDiscovery solution in place, the costs associated with retrieving such ‘deleted’ data or information stored on unsophisticated backup systems can be enormous.

Email archiving is not something you can put off into the future. Beyond the legal implications, implementing an archival system allows you to better manage the large volumes of existing emails and file attachments, which continue to grow exponentially. The take-away here is to archive mails left right and centre, using modern mail archival systems that help in sticky situations where fortunes might have been lost, if it weren’t for the mail archiving.

So how are you currently archiving your emails? Are you currently looking at some solutions or have not yet given it a serious thought? Do share your views by sharing your comments.

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