The corporate accounting scandals of the last few years
spawned new legislation, and increased enforcement of old laws regarding the
retention of company data. As a result, IT is under pressure to keep more data
for longer periods of time, and compliance with these rules carries greater
consequences for the entire life cycle of the data. But many companies are
still unclear on just what the legal parameters of e-mail archiving are and
what they should be doing to comply with regulations. David Via of Ferris Research, a market and technology
research firm specializing in messaging and collaboration, agrees that the
parameters are still a little fuzzy because there is yet very little case law
or precedent on the books for many of the regulations.

“But a couple of them are becoming more clear,”
Via says. “For example, SEC 17a-3/4 requires that
certain types of customer correspondence (including IM) be retained for up to
six years. This has driven securities firms to implement archiving very
quickly. The impact of other regulations (for example, Sarbanes-Oxley)
on e-mail is less certain. Since SOX is concerned with the integrity of the
financial reporting process, it depends on the degree to which e-mail and IM
are part of an individual organization’s processes.”

As compliance issues become clearer, IT needs to start
ramping up on new archiving technology and trends. Until recently, they relied
on user storage quotas or automated deletion processes to keep message store
requirements manageable. But now, according to Via, many administrators are
being required to implement mechanisms that not only store large quantities of
e-mail, but also provide for searching and retrieval. Fortunately, vendors and
service providers have been quick to respond with new archiving tools and

In a Ferris Research report, David Via talks about some of
the archiving trends that will evolve over the next three to five years:

Mail stores recognized as knowledge repositories

Organizations will have to change the way they look at
e-mail archiving. They will have to go from the minimum level of functionality
for compliance to leveraging the knowledge contained in the archives. This
includes implementing powerful search capabilities and the ability to retrieve
messages directly from within the e-mail client applications or from a Web
browser. According to Via, since the costs of e-mail archiving solutions are so
high, organizations need to realize greater value from it than just avoiding

Standardized data storage

Most organizations at present are using magnetic disks,
SANs, and NAS for storage. However, as the quantity of data and length of
retention increases, organizations will be moving to removable storage data
like optical discs or tape, “sometimes in conjunction with an autoloader
or jukebox,” according to Via.

Flexibility of capture, classification, and retrieval

Products will have to address complex archiving scenarios by
factors other than storage efficiency. Archiving solutions are becoming more
sophisticated with vendors developing rules engines that enable more selective
capture and classification of e-mail. According to Via, “Improved
flexibility of capture will have a significant effect on the quantity of
storage required for archiving, as well as reduce overall costs. Improved
flexibility of search and retrieval will make it easier to satisfy archiving
and reporting requirements, and to use message stores as an organizational
knowledge repository.”

Greater consideration of “document life cycle”

Archiving has traditionally been concerned with what happens
to e-mail at the end of its usefulness. But it will start being concerned with
the entire life cycle of the e-mail. One promising concept, according to the
Ferris report, is “smart archiving,” in which awareness of content
life cycle is inherent in the data or metadata, probably using a technology
such as XML.

Integration with management frameworks, data stores

IBM and Microsoft plan to use DB/2 and SQL Server as message
stores in their upcoming products. And the next major release of Windows will
embed SQL Server into the operating system as a component of the Windows Future
Storage (WinFS) file system.

Service providers will start offering e-mail archiving

E-mail archiving will become an expensive and complex task
to manage. It could prove to be more cost-effective to let outside firms, who
are focused only on e-mail archiving, handle the task for you. Via says that finding
the best options for e-mail archiving comes down to a few issues:

  • Speed to implement: Outsourced solutions can be
    in place more quickly.
  • Cost: In-house solutions are going to require an
    initial investment and on-going support.
  • Security: Is the organization comfortable with e-mail
    data being stored off-site with an outsourcer?
  • Flexibility: In-house solutions typically offer
    the greatest power to integrate with existing systems and to customize.
    • As e-mail archiving comes of age, its management will become
      more complex. Now is the time to find out what’s out there in terms of e-mail
      archiving technologies and services. Many of the e-mail industry’s leaders”including
      David Ferris of Ferris Research”will be on the panels at the INBOX E-mail event
      in San Jose, CA, on June 1-2. The conference will cover archiving, security,
      authentication, and delivery improvements of e-mail.