Pack-Rats by Law: A Message Archiving Primer

What have the iPod mini and an e-mail archiving application got in
common? The answer is that both are must-have products that everyone
who hasn’t already should have on the shopping list.

iPod minis are just a bit of fun, but there’s an important reason for
implementing an e-mail archiving system this year: the Sarbanes-Oxley
Act of 2002, designed to improve the accuracy and reliability of
corporate disclosures, specifies severe punishments for company
officers who fail to keep business documents. Although e-mail is
often trivialized by its use for personal messaging, the courts regard
e-mail (and attachments) – and the even more informal instant
messaging – as business documents which must be retained for
regulatory compliance. Sarbanes-Oxley specifies that business records
should be kept for five years, and those related to audits and
business reviews must be kept for seven years.

Even without Sarbanes-Oxley, e-mail and instant messaging
archiving is important because any business, of any size, could face
litigation, and e-mail is becoming increasingly important in
litigation. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
estimates about 10 percent of US companies had been ordered by courts
to produce employees’ e-mails by 2001. Tracing e-mails without a
comprehensive archiving system can be extremely time consuming and
very expensive: It can cost as much as $10,000 per hard disk to
recover deleted e-mails, which may be demanded in court.

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
estimates about 10 percent of US companies had been ordered by courts
to produce employees’ e-mails by 2001.

From a network administrator’s point of view, there’s another good
reason to archive e-mail: storing it in an archive is far cheaper per
gigabyte than storing it on a mail server. “Archiving is much lower
cost because it is designed so that messages can be written once and
maybe never read again. They have to be available, but they certainly
don’t need to be instantaneous,” says Mark Levitt, analyst at IDC. If
you’re sick and tired of telling users to reduce the size of their
mailboxes, giving them the chance to shunt most of their cache of
e-mails and attachments to an archive will make your life easier and
reduce storage costs.

So what do you need to think about before installing an archiving
system?

A first step is to find out if employees are using instant
messaging clients. Tools to do this are available from vendors such
as Akonix, FaceTime and IMlogic. If they are, then it’s probably best to
prohibit their use, and to switch to an enterprise messaging system
which can be more easily controlled and archived using any of the
leading products.

Next you’ll have to evaluate the products available, from companies
including IBM, Tumbleweed, KVS, EMC/Legato, Educom TS and others.

You’ll also have to review your IT infrastructure and look at the
feasibility of consolidating your messaging systems onto the minimum
number of servers possible, to reduce the cost and complexity of
implementing a single archiving system.

But more importantly, you’ll have to consider the actual storage
you propose to use. In a large company it’s entirely reasonable to
expect to have to store billions of e-mails and instant messages – for
periods of up to seven years. You may wish to use an existing SAN, or,
more commonly, use a dedicated and expandable storage system just for
e-mails, instant messages and attachments. The key things are to look
at the cost per terabyte for storing the information, the
expandability of the storage system, and the costs.

Continued on Page 2: Considering the client

Continued From Page 1

Then there is the issue of client-side software. Some of the archiving
systems on the market need no client software at all, while others may
offer enhanced functionality and better user message retrieval if a
plug-in for Outlook or other desktop software is installed. In a large
company, especially one with users which are widely geographically
dispersed, client-side software may be more trouble than it is worth
to install, maintain and support. Keeping it simple is often the best
policy.

Another thing to keep an eye on is bandwidth – specifically, the
amount of extra bandwidth an archiving system is likely to
consume. That’s because with an archiving system in place, messages
make a double journey: Not only do they go to their recipients, but a
copy is also sent to the archive. This may be done in a batch
overnight, or may happen in real time. However it’s done, if you run
your messaging server and archive system in-house, message traffic on
your LAN will double. This is probably not a huge problem for most
companies, as e-mail will usually only take up a small proportion of
LAN traffic, but problems could occur at the height of virus outbreaks
– when vast amounts of unwanted e-mail and attachments may overload a
network – or if you employ packet shaping on your network to ensure
the quality of service of bandwidth-intensive applications like video
conferencing and make only a small proportion of your bandwidth
available for messaging.

Of course you may decide to use an ASP that offers an archiving
service, in which case e-mails destined for storage will be passing
over an external link to the service provider. Depending on your
network topology this may mean that the impact on your LAN is
negligible. The usual precautions should be taken before signing up to
an ASP service – be sure that the company and your message archive is
secure.

The actual implementation of most archiving systems is fairly
straightforward. A dedicated server needs to be set up and storage has
to be connected, but this shouldn’t take more than a day or so. The
hardest part, which may require outside consultancy as well as close
co-operation with compliance officers within your organization, is
setting up the archiving policies to ensure that the right messages
are stored for the right amount of time – in accordance with
regulatory requirements. Equally important is keeping storage costs to
a minimum, by avoiding storing messages from less business critical
departments for unnecessary lengths of time.

And once you have got your messaging archiving system up and
running and configured to meet the stringent requirements of
Sarbanes-Oxley and any other regulatory authorities, don’t forget to
treat yourself to that iPod mini.

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