A Backseat To Backup No Longer: Archiving Infiltrates E-mail Policies
Most enterprises haven't actually taken the step to message archiving yet. A growing number of administrators, though, are starting to look at the possibility, whether to meet growing statutory requirements or to simply free up needed storage space. Meanwhile, analysts now advocate the inclusion of archiving in corporate e-mail policies, and some of the archiving products already on the market are designed to automatically enforce such policies.
Five or ten years ago, much of the policy discussion in Internet news groups revolved around putting together a comprehensive set of e-mail policies. Now the talk has moved on to adding new practices for new messaging scenarios. In many cases, the new procedures translate into archiving.
"I have about 30 users on my network, and everyone is using [their] deleted items to hold [their] e-mail. I want to set up a procedure to archive their e-mail by the year," wrote one administrator in May of 2002.
"I was wondering if anyone could tell me how I could archive users' mailboxes so that the messages are not on the [Microsoft] Exchange Server, [thereby] freeing up disk space," according to another recent posting.
"I am required to archive all mail for 5 years in an easily recoverable format. All mail relaying through, arriving at, or originating from Microsoft Exchange servers must be included in this archive. The archive must be stored in two facilities," wrote another administrator.
Use of Archiving Policies Growing but Not Yet Prevalent
The Meta Group correctly forecast back in 2001 that, "By 2003, most companies will have a policy in place and will revise it annually to account for new e-mail features [and] developments."
Increasingly, analysts are now advising companies to add archiving to their existing policies. "An organization [needs] an e-mail retention policy to define what records must be kept, how they should be stored and retrieved, and how long they should be preserved. These can be based on criteria defined [either] by the organization or by regulatory requirements," according to Gailene Nelson, a consulting analyst with Ferris Research.
"Archiving practices should definitely be part of the overall e-mail policy," agreed Michael Osterman, president of Osterman Research. "With traditional backup, it's often hard to get at the data. In full-blown archiving, however, e-mails are indexed and stored according to retention requirements. Some systems will take attachments, too. These products let you manage the audit trail as well, so that end users can't go back in and change the [original] content."
As part of these policies, organizations should create classification schemes for archiving various kinds of e-mails on tape and/or optical media, as well as for restoring and purging messages, experts say. Copyright issues ought to be considered, too.
In one recent survey by Osterman Research, however, only 19 percent of respondents answered "Yes" to the question, "Do you have different levels of backup or archiving for your messaging servers based on different retention requirements?"
Survey participants were also asked to describe their organizations' practices for backing up or archiving end users' "critical messaging data." A total of 44.1 percent replied, "Users back up their own critical data electronically" -- a full percentage point more than the 43 percent who said, "The IS department archives critical data." Another 29 percent admitted that, "We have no policies or requirements here."
Also, according to the survey results, the mean length of time for keeping backup tapes before recycling amounted to merely 69 days.
Archiving Software Capabilities Are Expanding...
Some ARM (archiving and record management) products -- although not all -- now claim to automatically enforce archiving policies. For example, Assentor, a product initially targeted at financial firms, scans both e-mail and attachments for breaches in corporate policy, as well as for language violating regulatory requirements. Assentor is aimed at compliance with SEC Rule 17a-3, 17a-4 and NASD Rule 3010(d).
In addition to migrating mail and attachments to archive media, eManage, another product in the category, is meant to capture e-mail into a Microsoft Exchange-based repository and analyze the content to assure corporate policy compliance. The product is certified to the DoD 5015.2 Electronic Records Management standard.
Other emerging features that are starting to appear in some (but not all) archiving products include instant messaging (IM) archiving and quarantining of noncompliant messages, for example.
Some products -- including both eManage and TrueArc for Microsoft Exchange -- are specifically designed for Exchange/Outlook environments. "By itself, Exchange has limited ARM functionality. On the server side, it has a mailbox tool that can purge old records [and] a message journaling service that keeps a copy of all e-mail," Nelson noted.
"On the client side, Outlook allows users to archive their messages as well as search the message repository. When they're archived, the messages are moved to personal folders that can be stored locally or on the network. However, this practice doesn't alleviate the overall storage problem. Personal folders are difficult to manage, and this circumvents an organization's centralized administrative functions for messaging," she argued.
Microsoft's SharePoint Portal Server (SPS) does provide some classification, search-and-retrieval, and e-mail purging functions. "[But] these apply only to live [as opposed to archived] data," Nelson pointed out.
Another third-party offering, KVS Enterprise Vault, attempts to provide policy-based archiving to content originating on either SharePoint or Exchange servers. "For the foreseeable future, leading messaging vendors like Microsoft and Lotus will leave the [archiving] area to third parties," Nelson predicted.
...While the Number of Vendors Is Shrinking
Although the capabilities of archiving software tools are increasing, the number of vendors is shrinking, leaving administrators with fewer product choices overall.
At least four company acquisitions have happened over the past year alone. In January, Zantaz completed the acquisition of iWitness. Last October, SRA sold its Assentor Solutions Division to iLumin. Meanwhile, for its part, IXOS Software has acquired two smaller archiving vendors: Obtree and PowerWork.
Despite the recent consolidation, the future for ARM looks bright indeed. As companies begin to add archiving to their e-mail policies in earnest, and as archiving software tools continue to expand in terms of capabilities, look for archiving to take a backseat to backup no longer.