The Biggest Email Archiving Errors

Email archiving mistakes can be costly. Here are some pitfalls to avoid

October 2, 2007

4 Min Read
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Email archiving is a hot topic for IT pros, who face increased pressure to save any sort of potential evidence to meet regulatory or legal mandates. But creating a system for storing email -- and making it searchable -- can be a tough undertaking.

Just ask Richard Taylor, senior systems programmer for Clark County, Nevada, who says he faced "much more work" when his team's initial decisions about archived email turned out to be "short-sighted."

"The biggest problem we ran into was allowing expediency to overcome due diligence as far as setting limits, quotas, and space considerations... This has resulted in having to do much more work, only because we either weren't allowed to ask the right questions or didn't know the right questions to ask," Taylor states. While he's pleased to have a system today that includes EMC EmailXtender and IBM's Tivoli Storage Manager, among other products, getting there was fraught with lessons learned.

What were those lessons? Based on the experiences of Taylor and others, with input from various industry sources, we've gathered the following list of email archiving's biggest "boo boos":

  • Storing too much email. A frequent problem involves the storage of what some sources call "bacn," or email that's not personal but isn't spam, either. Examples include newsletters, advertisements from companies with relationships to the sendee, various HR emails, and so forth.

    The answer to bacn may be the same as the answer to spam, which is filtering. Several service providers claim to offer solutions, including Zantaz (now Autonomy), Fortiva, and MessageGate. According to MessageGate, 10 percent to 30 percent of email is bacn that winds up clogging the inbox and negatively impacting search results. Other vendors filter on image files or offer alternative products for in-house use.

  • Failure to archive. The difference between backup and archive may not be apparent until it's too late, and the corporate lawyers come calling. At that point, sifting through endless backup-up email will contrast most negatively against having a searchable database, which is a feature of archiving tools. Here's where Barracuda Networks, CA, C2C, EMC, Mimosa, MessageGate, and Symantec, to name just a few, claim to offer value. HP has also entered the fray, with its Integrated Archive Platform announced last week. This is a pre-packaged bundle of archiving and e-discovery software running on a Proliant server attached to StorageWorks grid hardware.

  • Mishandling of .pst files. At first, Richard Taylor of Clarks County disabled .pst files in the county's email backup system, because he and others believed the archives contained in EMC's EmailXtender would be sufficient for search and retrieval. But many organizations that have dealings with the county use .pst files, and Taylor's group realized they'd been short-sighted in not providing a way to handle them in the system. They subsequently bought a few licenses of a software utility called Aid4Mail in order to add .pst files to their archives as needed.

  • Relying on IM. Some companies have apparently hoped to eliminate the legal or regulatory evidence created by email by using instant messaging instead. It's no go, since IM is subject to the same laws as email. For this reason, it's important to find a system that handles both your email and messaging formats. Luckily, many of the systems noted above do so by now, but it's worth checking for specifics.

    There's likely to be no slowdown in products that support email archiving with a view to addressing some of the above concerns. Though some sources claim email archiving is still in its infancy, there's plenty of evidence that it's growing fast. The Radicati Group says sales of products that enable users to store and retrieve email systematically grew 70 percent last year and will reach $5.4 billion by 2011. IDC has predicted annual growth rates through 2011 of 23.5 percent. 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.

  • Barracuda Networks Inc.

  • CA Inc. (NYSE: CA)

  • C2C Systems

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Fortiva Inc.

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • IDC

  • Mimosa Systems Inc.

  • The Radicati Group Inc.

  • Symantec Corp.

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