Resolving the archiving dilemma

For many organizations, deciding what types of e-mail to save and for how long are the chief challenges in implementing archiving. Even laws that mandate e-mail retention are often not clear on what needs to be saved and what does not.

“Archiving has been very confusing, because there are different regulations from different bodies — federal and industry-specific,” explains Sara Radicati, president and CEO of The Radicati Group.

Because of that confusion, many IT departments have adopted an “archive everything” approach.

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center has opted to archive all e-mail and attachments, at least until it can decide on some specific policies for retention.

“We’re still examining what we want to do,” explains systems manager Jerry Hook. But rather than just moving mail onto DVDs, the hospital uses Symantec’s Enterprise Vault, which users can search from their own mailboxes.”

However, saving every e-mail ever sent by every employee carries its own risk.

“E-mail is better than voice mail in that people tend to read it a couple of times before hitting the Send button. But e-mails can be misconstrued,” says Dave Johnson, director of infrastructure technologies at the financial services branch of global accounting firm Grant Thornton International. “Our legal department was concerned that saving everything could be a risk.”

Enter Johnson’s “e-mail pooling” system, which enables employees to make decisions about which e-mails to save or delete, yet it guards against malicious deletion of legally important materials. With e-mail pooling, messages are saved to a repository in Zantaz Inc.’s Enterprise Archive Solution. But employees can decide to delete unimportant messages from their in-boxes. After 30 days, that message is also removed from the central repository. The 30-day grace period gives Johnson and his team time to stop the deletion.

“E-mail pooling bridges the gap between archiving everything or nothing,” he explains.