Expert Insight: Making Sense of Email Managment

Scaling the email mountain is easier said than done, but help is at hand

June 24, 2008

6 Min Read
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Few businesses today could survive without their email systems, and most firms have to handle tens, even hundreds of thousands of messages each day, making email a top priority for both storage managers and their CIOs.

Making sense of all this information, however, is easier said than done. Users, for example, are being forced to do more and more with this ever-growing email mountain, from e-discovery in the event of a legal dispute, to archiving and managing the emails over periods of months or even years.

To make matters worse, some vendors are actually making this complex scenario even more difficult for users to fathom.

Cut Through the Vendor Spiel

No one, for example, really agrees on what EAM (Email Archiving and Management) is, and the various definitions bandied about dont really help technology buyers very much. But, even at a basic level, all EAM systems do not do the same things:

  • Some focus on removing mail from the email servers

  • Others specialize in filtering and removing junk or useless mail

  • Others concentrate on building and maintaining a copy of the mail environment so that it can be backed up if all else failsEAM certainly paints with a very broad brush. Yet regardless of the approach, almost every EAM system provides several standard features. This set of core features spans the email spectrum:

  • Manage email over the long term -- in some cases many years -- but not in the email server

  • Search and retrieve email regardless of its age or status

  • Identify and attach retention policies to email that contains business-critical information

  • Configure email to be compliant if the enterprise faces legal action

  • Account for email across a life cycle that terminates with archiving and/or disposition.

    Work Out Your Options

    Over the past couple of years, large vendors such as Microsoft, Symantec, Google, HP, and Dell have entered the EAM market via acquisitions. They join a disjointed set of small vendorsthat offer both hosted and on-premise solutions. EAM appeals to these larger vendors becausethey recognize that:

  • Exchange and Notes environments -- and not to forget Novell Groupwise -- are reaching the breaking point in terms of volume

  • Few enterprises even attempt to manage this growing mountain of data and when they do, they usually do it badly

    Such business problems represent future revenue streams for these vendors. Yet isn’t it ironic that many of the firms that sold the products that created these huge unmanaged volumes of email (Microsoft, IBM, and Google) now want to sell us more products to deal with the problems they cause?

    Of course, these message-managing services will likely produce renewable revenues for these vendors, because our dependence on messaging will continue to grow for the foreseeable future. All in all, vendors find the EAM market very appealing. As such, they are staking their claims and will continue to invest heavily in their offerings over the coming years.Justify Your Choices

    Archiving, backup, monitoring, discovery, and policy management still represent distinct solution sets, each with its own unique business and technical drivers. Even if the technology elements are similar or even identical, each user’s needs and motivations remain distinctly different.

    EAM is therefore broad enough to touch multiple areas within your enterprise, including both technical and business departments. Managers have several common reasons to justify applying these technologies:

  • To prepare for legal holds and legal discovery requests

  • To meet legal or compliancy requirements regarding information management

  • To improve the performance of email environment (Exchange, Notes, or Groupwise)

  • To reduce the volume of data on email servers, and by default, to reduce the need to buy more licenses

  • To provide backup and disaster recovery for email system

  • To better manage storage costs and needs

    The marketplace keeps finding new reasons for applying EAM technologies. Compliance, for example, is a relatively new rationale. Traditionally, the sales and buying processes focused on systems management and storage requirements. Today, most enterprises turn to EAM to reduce costs and control information overload. Indeed, with digital information and, in particular, email and messaging mushrooming faster than most enterprises can manage, EAM projects have become a cost of doing business. Enterprises simply need to do something about the information overload.

    Next Page: Deal With ComplexityDeal With Complexity

    At a high level there are two key approaches to using EAM technology:

  • As a part of your messaging infrastructure and storage activities

  • As an essential compliance and legal business application

    Both approaches can be complex, and in some cases, may be industry-specific. Law firms, for example, use EAM technology very differently than manufacturing companies. Furthermore,individual enterprises have unique needs. Nevertheless, we see definite patterns in theadoption of EAM tools. We call these patterns “business scenarios,” i.e., using EAMtechnology to solve very specific business problems.

    Most firms deploy EAM to deal with a single and specific need rather than to meet a range of needs or to fully leverage the breadth of EAM offerings. In some cases, enterprises deployEAM simply to provide a backup to an Exchange Environment; others use it to regulate andmonitor the messaging of a particular sub-group within the organization.

    As a result, EAM vendors have developed a variety of approaches to meet these varied needs. For instance, Google/Postini’s set of modules focuses on security and the filtering of email traffic to eliminate spam and non-compliance. CA provides sophisticated records management and compliance applications for email. Autonomy Zantaz focuses on e-discovery requirements. Mimosa and HP provide efficient backup and recovery for mail systems.While most enterprises deploy EAM-related applications for a specific need or activity, all ofthese systems offer quite broad capabilities beyond their core focus elements. Some spanacross industries and provide a more general purpose -- some would say “horizontal” -- approach to EAM. Others hone in on particular vertical industries such as financial services.Many of these offerings have a lot in common as they respond to the market’s growing need tomeet ever more complex requirements.

    The Conclusion

    In order to survive, most enterprises today depend on high volumes of email runningefficiently through their system. Virtually all enterprises require that messaging be a part of theunderlying IT infrastructure. Many decision-makers describe systems such as Microsoft’sExchange as the single most important communication and business application within theiroperation.

    Nevertheless, EAM vendors tend to focus on a subset of businessproblems, rather than offer a truly comprehensive product. There are seven commonscenarios against which vendors can be reviewed:

    1. Email backup and disaster recovery

    2. Messaging system optimization

    3. Storage optimization

    4. Regulatory compliance

    5. Litigation and Legal Discovery

    6. Monitoring of internal and external email content

    7. Building a corporate archive

    These scenarios, whether they are infrastructure- or application-oriented, require specificcombinations of tools, approaches, and expertise. Explicitly or not, EAM tools have specificcore competencies, although the vendors understandably want to appeal to as broad a marketas possible. Seeing how the different packages fit these business scenarios enables you todelve deeper into their relative strengths and weaknesses for your particular circumstances.

    — Alan Pelz-Sharpe is a principal at CMS Watch, covering ECM technologies and practices. Formerly he was a Strategist at Wipro and VP North America for Industry Analyst firm Ovum. An 18-year veteran of the document technology industry, Alan has written extensively on document, Web, and records management topics and delivered keynotes at events around the world.

    Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Byte and Switch's editors directly, send us a message.

  • Autonomy Corp.

  • CA Inc. (Nasdaq: CA)

  • Dell Inc. (Nasdaq: DELL)

  • Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)

  • Novell Inc. (Nasdaq: NOVL)

  • Postini Inc.

  • Symantec Corp.

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