Controlling corporate e-mail
Love it or loath it, e-mail is a way of life. There's always
a way to manage the mountains of information it creates, and convert the same
to a business advantage. Controlling corporate e-mail is the way forward.
by Soutiman Das Gupta.
E-mail forms the bedrock of business communications, and will
continue to do so for many more years. In the words of Frank Luksic, Director,
Workplace, Portal & Collaboration Software, IBM Software Group, Enterprise
users have a mail-centric approach to work. They prefer to work out of their
mailboxes, and their personal productivity and communication revolves around
the mail systems.
A significant amount of the information we need to do our jobs is kept within
an e-mail system. Over 80 percent of us hang on to e-mail immediately
after reading it, states Marcus Loh, Business Manager, Enterprise Vault,
Asia South, Symantec.
THE GOOD AND BAD
This style of functioning has its advantages and disadvantages. The biggest
advantage is that e-mail is present everywhere. All types of business, buyers,
sellers and manufacturers now use it. E-mail is easy to use and access, and
messages can be sent to any destination anywhere in the world almost instantaneously.
E-mail is taken for granted in almost any business today, and its properties
have made it a vital enabler.
The disadvantages of e-mail are also aplenty and can be inhibiting at times.
The biggest is that the use of an inbox for an e-mail base does
not allow a company to organise communication. To get the maximum business advantage
from e-mail, organisations must put procedures in place for archiving, storing
and retrieving e-mail in a very short time. These must be backed by a well-planned
e-mail management strategy to create a hassle-free business communications infrastructure.
E-mail management is a critical enterprise requirement today. If you consider
the sheer volume of incoming and outgoing e-mail that the average enterprise
sees in a day, then the need for an effective system to sort, categorise, filter
and store the vast volume of e-mail will be adjudged to be beyond doubt.
It is no longer sufficient for enterprises to weed out spam and viruses,
and pass the remaining incoming e-mail to a user, comments Sharad Sanghi,
Managing Director, NetMagic Solutions. What is needed instead is an e-mail management
strategy. E-mail management reduces the burden on e-mail servers, and transforms
e-mail from an isolated knowledge source visible only to the person to whom
it is addressed into an asset that can be shared across offices, easily and
CIOs must use an e-mail
management and archival policy along with suitable tools to comply with
regulations and empower their business.
Traditional e-mail solutions are
not capable of offering management and archival features. New tools with
flexible functionality coupled with management policies are needed.
A typical e-mail management strategy will include policies and provisions for
aspects such as sorting, archiving, user management, spam or virus filtering,
compliance with the companys internal guidelines, and compliance with
When considering an e-mail management strategy its essential to
include a policy of retention and deletion of e-mail. Its the need of
the hour, says Rajiv Desai, Director, Operations, Euronet Services India.
E-mail archiving should also be complemented with e-mail management in
order to set the norms of controlled retention and destruction of e-mail fully
driven by the companys e-mail policy, he adds.
An ideal mail solution that will allow an enterprise user to comply with mail
management guidelines should have a number of features. (See box: Features of
E-mail Management Solutions)
Features of an ideal
e-mail management solution
The ideal e-mail management
program should have the following capabilities:
- E-mail addressable folders: Each e-mail
folder can be assigned a unique e-mail address. Users can cc or forward
messages directly to the relevant e-mail folder.
- Drag and drop capability: Users simply
drag e-mail messages from the Notes or Outlook inbox into the appropriate
work folder. E-mail attachments can be filed as part of the original
message or as separate files with their own profiles and associated
- Automatic profiling: Messages and attachments
inherit the security and metadata settings from the e-mail folder in
which they are being stored, virtually eliminating the need for manual
entry of profile information.
- Intelligent duplicate detection: Eliminates
redundancies and reduces storage requirements.
- Flexible search criteria: E-mail, attachments,
and documents can be searched using keyword and full-text search. Queries
can be performed on e-mail messages and attachments, or documents, or
all at the same time.
E-mail archiving should also
be complemented with e-mail management in order to set the norms of controlled
retention and destruction of e-mail fully driven by a company's e-mail
Euronet Services India
While telephone conversations dont necessarily leave
a trail, e-mail does. Lately, with Indian companies, and more so, MNCs being
subject to regulatory compliance, enterprises know that they are now required
by law to archive all e-mail communication for a legally stipulated period of
Being able to quickly search through hundreds or thousands
of e-mail messages for a particular one is an efficient business enabler. When
youre required to find a particular mail sent eight months ago, you dont
want to have to put half your in-house IT team on the job. You want to locate
the e-mail in a few seconds, Sanghi points out.
Explains Loh, E-mail archiving solutions help organisations
leverage archived e-mail and content by providing enhanced search, audit, and
workflow processes to perform business-specific responsibilities in a simple
and efficient manner.
Having a good e-mail archival system that has well-defined
rules and retention policies based on business-value and legal compliance can
virtually eradicate the cost of legal discovery if a company was to be audited.
Archiving as an important aspect of e-mail communication should be an important
part of a companys e-mail management strategy. The strategy should define
aspects such as bookmarks, the minimum time after which messages should be archived,
rules for classification and backup, and retrieval policies.
THE TRADITIONAL WAY
Traditional archiving solutions only store e-mail data and
all relevant attachments for retrieval when needed. A basic solution such as
this is not sufficient to bring in the business efficiency required by most
Tape-based archival is grossly insufficient for e-mail
in today's business scenario. A major reason is that the frequency of
searches made to older archived mail is much more than that made to other
The influx of e-mail is exponential to the exposure
had by a corporate executive. To maintain the total information lifecycle, a
traditional archiving solution is not a safe bet, states Desai.
The indexing mechanisms of traditional archiving solutions
often dont mesh with the indexing, searching and accessing mechanisms
required by e-mail archiving.
E-mail archiving has to adhere to industry-specific regulations and policies
concerning information lifecycle management. If it doesnt, the legal implications
can be severe as Microsoft, Enron, Arthur Andersen and other companies found
out, says Sanghi.
Most organisations today use tape-based archival for the companys business
data, and e-mail. Tape-based archival requires that the archived tape media
be located, mounted and then processed for recovery of data and e-mail.
However, this general approach to archival is grossly
insufficient for e-mail in todays business scenario. A major reason is
that the frequency of searches made to older archived mail is much more than
that made to other application data, explains Arun Rao, Head-Storage Solutions,
Retrieval of information from tape is a slow process which also depends
on the priorities of the IT administrator, he adds.
A typical e-mail architecture fit for business communications needs of an organisation
today includes features such as:
- Unlimited mailbox
- Faster search and recovery of e-mail messages
- Accountability as per regulations and policies to
comply with the same
- Single instance of storage for a mail addressed
to multiple recipients
- Faster backups
architecture of an e-mail archival system
architecture can have two servers. One is the original e-mail server configured
with a high performance storage system of less capacity, while the second
is the e-mail archive server configured with a high capacity, low performance
The archive server captures,
indexes, compresses, and stores all the incoming and outgoing mail. This
allows all mail to be available at the archive server.
As users access the e-mail
archival server to look up old mail, it is possible to use low performance,
low cost ATA disks configured for the archive server as against expensive
fibre channel disks. This flexibility ensures low TCO while the storage
capacity of the archive server increases.
See box: Typical architecture of an e-mail system
YOUR E-MAIL TOMORROW
E-mail, used in an organised manner, with the help of an appropriate archival
and management strategy customised for an organisation will enable businesses
to be more efficient in the near and long run. There will be challenges like
spam, and the inability of the current breed of mail applications to provide
the desired features. Despite that, this mode of business communication will
continue to be the most important means of business communication in the future.
An activity-centric approach to the workplace will help improve productivity
by giving people the right capabilities in the context of their role and the
business activity they are working on. With this approach, you can organise
collaboration around the way the work is being done, rather than around the
technologies that are being used to do the work.