The email management problems at the White House are common to many organizations, and solutions are not only readily available, they're cheap and easy to implement. Just ask any email archiving supplier.
"There is no technological reason why their email went unarchived," says Paul DArcy, VP of marketing at MessageOne, the email archiving service provider now owned by Dell after a $155 million acquisition deal closed last week. "We could solve their problems for under $1,000 a month. That includes hardware, software, services, and storage."
Not that the White House is asking. For the last eight years, that agency has been repeatedly confronted with questions about its email preservation techniques -- or lack thereof. The agency and its current CIO Theresa Payton remain embroiled in legal disputes with the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the National Security Archive at George Washington University over the inability to account for specific email documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act.
The situation may be coming to a head. In a court order issued last week, U.S. magistrate judge John M. Facciola gave the Executive Office of the President (EOP) until Monday, May 5, to determine "whether all back-up tapes created between March 2003 and October 2003 have been preserved and, to the extent that they have not, to state the specific dates within that period for which no back-up tapes exist."
It's questionable whether the White House will produce the desired evidence. A series of testimonies, including a statement to a House of Representatives committee by Payton in February portray a group of IT pros who haven't yet established an effective archiving strategy for email, and may not do so before the present administration moves on.