The importance of e-mail archival and discovery
is an essential application but a badly designed archival
system for messaging can kill a business. With regulations
becoming a fact of life, businesses have to devise the
right strategies to ensure that e-mail archival and
discovery are done in the right manner, says Manish
The case for properly archived e-mail is critical if organisations are to stay
in business. For example, during a recent prescription drug antitrust case,
the plaintiff demanded a discovery search of 30 million pages of e-mail stored
on the defendants backup tapes for names of particular individuals. The
defendant suggested that the plaintiff shoulder the cost of compiling, formatting,
searching, eliminating duplicates and retrieving the requested e-mail. Sadly,
the defendant lost the argument and the court found that the burdensome and
expensive discovery process was the defendants problem because of a bad
e-mail retrieval process. The defendant paid through the nose.
Court cases routinely approve discovery motions to sift through electronic documents,
especially ubiquitous e-mail. The consequences of not having the information
available or being able to access it in a reasonable amount of time are severe.
Despite this, few companies have enforceable records retention policies and
fewer still have the technology tools needed to support it.
More Than Meets The Eye
Another problem is keeping e-mail you dont legally have to keep, as Microsoft
found out. The smoking gun e-mail surfaced during the discovery phase of Microsofts
antitrust trial, even though it was AOLs e-mail, not Microsofts.
The Justice Department found one of Gates own e-mails with the undying
line: We have to make sure that we dont allow them to promote Netscape.
Electronic discovery isnt just for enterprise corporations. Mid-sized
companies frequently experience legal discovery, so if it hasnt happened
to an individual business it almost certainly will. So how can organisations
best prepare for electronic discovery? By balancing risk against cost; in essence,
its establishing policies and capabilities for efficiently accessing secure
archives without breaking the bank.
Managing Archives For Discovery
Companies should begin by establishing and enforcing retention policies, including
policies against destroying or altering data potentially relevant to discovery
motions. This goes double for destroying or altering data after discovery or
It seems obvious, but over the last few years, weve heard about executives
being indicted for deleting messages pointing to insider trading. Not only did
the federal investigators recover the deleted messages, they tacked on serious
additional charges. Archiving procedures must support evidentiary measures and
record retention policies must be in writing and enforced, with a method to
prove regular enforcement.
This is a tall order and its success depends on a cost-effective technology
to support electronic discovery for messaging files. This strategy hinges on
two major elements: managing cost and managing risk. A balance between the two
yields a cost-effective technology for managing messaging archives and enforcing
Managing cost includes reining in storage costs, improving operational efficiency
and company productivity, and decreasing retrieval/discovery costs.
Until recently, companies were limited to first-generation archiving applications.
These applications backed up incremental or full copies of data to backup media.
With no way to manage duplicate copies of data, and an awkward and time-consuming
retrieval process, archiving would complicate discovery procedures and significantly
increase cost. In fact, storing e-mail alone often represents over 40 percent
of an organisations storage costs because of both the sheer volume of
e-mail and the multiple copies of messages retained.
New archive applications are engineered to compare e-mail messages, record and
validate the original, and eliminate duplicates across multiple messaging servers.
E-mail archives can now take up a fraction of the storage space previously used,
allowing companies to shrink the amount of backup media, backup windows, and
retrieval time. These archiving applications are also capable of rapid searches
based on a number of parameters, letting organisations quickly retrieve detailed
e-mail subsets in response to a discovery demand.
Managing risk includes keeping a complete archive, enforcing retention policies,
proving authenticity and evidentiary weight, and maintaining security and privacy.
Poor archive retrieval systems are extremely time-consuming and costly due to
their big-dump approach: archive everything and hope for the best. This results
in huge volumes of badly indexed messages, an awkward and labour-intensive retrieval
process, and no way to prove the archived medias integrity.
A next-generation e-mail archive management solution
can audit and report on all attempts to access an archive, automatically
run retention schedules, as well as capture and index all messaging data,
including attachments and instant messages
Next-generation e-mail archive management can audit and report
on all archive access and operations, automatically run retention schedules,
and capture and index all messaging data, including attachments and IMs. It
should also allow for real-time data capture, monitor user information and support
privacy by protecting user access.
Is it worth deploying a next-generation archiving product? Previously, a mid-sized
company with 1,500 employees and $350 million in annual revenues had to retain
95 percent of its e-mail. The company fielded three to five discovery requests
a month and spent a cool $15,000 to $20,000 per discovery request. The grand
total of meeting discovery demands was approximately $1.2 million a year.
After deploying next-generation archiving tools, the company cut that $1.2 million
down to just $57,000 a year to fulfil discovery demands. The archiving software
speeded up discovery retrievals; decreased storage costs, centralised e-mail
archive management, and provided audits and reports to prove that archives met
Being unprepared for electronic discovery can be disastrous,
costing thousands of hours of employee labour and millions of dollars in consulting
and legal fees. Its vital that companies develop, audit and enforce electronic
discovery policies, and invest in supporting technology. Protecting, auditing,
and producing information on demand not only allows organisations to protect
themselves during litigation, but also supports strategic business goals by
managing critical business information in an efficient and affordable manner.
The author is Business Manager, NAS & CAS, EMC India