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Power To The User: Do It Yourself

Making users responsible and accountable for managing their own e-mail is one way to reduce the burden on overworked IT staffs. And according to a recent Osterman Research survey, that is exactly what is starting to happen.

It's not like the technical staffs managing large corporate e-mail servers don't already have enough on their hands taking care of things like disaster recovery, legal discovery, compliance and storage management. So why not make it possible for users and compliance managers to perform their own search and discovery on current and historical messages without relying on IT administrators?

The Osterman study, commissioned by Mimosa Systems, found that those responsible for managing large MS Exchange installations were actively looking for self-service tools to help lighten the load. Now these were big Exchange shops with an average number of mailboxes of more than 9,000. So you know the burden on staff is already heavy before you throw in demands from internal compliance officers and external legal counsel.According to the study, the top five Exchange challenges are, in order of difficulty, disaster recovery, managing the size of message stores, protecting .pst file data and searching files for legal discovery, restoring mailboxes and recovering deleted messages, and capturing messages for compliance purposes.

Each one of those activities is a tall order for large Exchange installations. So what is IT doing about it?

Several things: First, we all know that users attempt to circumvent mailbox quotas by storing their .pst files locally, but that has become a huge legal and compliance no-no. So Exchange administrators are starting to look at archiving tools that put all messages in a protected central repository apart from the Exchange server.

To overcome the time-draining hand-holding required by auditors and legal counsel, administrators are now looking for self-service tools that allow these individuals to perform searches in a routine manner without causing major disruptions to IT staff. Similarly, when those high-ranking execs delete business critical messages, rather than calling for a technician to pull out the recovery tools and spend hours looking for that one must-have file, self-service tools make it possible for anyone, not just those with the juice, to recover their own lost e-mails.

That e-mail management tools should head in the self-service direction makes a lot of sense. The rub is that there isn't currently a lot out there that IT managers feel comfortable deploying. With all the well-documented threats bombarding your mail servers, the words security and self-service don't seem like fit. Hopefully that will change.