E-MAIL management comes of age

It’s an idea that appeals to more than 90 percent of U.S. executives, according to a recent market survey. With traditional e-mail, instant messaging or mobile communication, every message leaves a record on a computer or a server somewhere—even if you have deleted it. And where there is a record, there is the ability to retrieve that message and disclose its private contents, even if it is out of context and can be misinterpreted. VaporStream messages cannot be forwarded, edited or saved. They are streamed from a server and, once read, the messages are gone forever and totally “recordless.”

So the EMM market continues to be dynamic and healthy, driven by the insatiable hunger of organizations to make sense of their content, aggressive litigators and continued governmental demands.

In a future issue, we’ll review some of the leading and emerging solutions in e-mail management in detail.

What is recordless e-mail?

The inevitability and cost of litigation have become grim facts for corporations. Much of the costly detail uncovered in litigation has been found in archived e-mails or IMs that may have been forwarded and taken out of context beyond the intention of the original sender. Over the past several years, we have witnessed a “raid” on corporate archived e-mail by overzealous litigators.

VaporStream from Void Communications  claims to be the first and only recordless e-mail. Currently, it is a
separate, hosted solution offered over the Internet, but the startup company is working feverishly to build an MS Outlook Plug-in, and to support Windows Mobile and Blackberry functionality.

Recordless e-mail refers to e-mail that can be sent and received with no record left on a server or on either the sender’s or receiver’s computer. How does it do that? At no time throughout the process is there a connection between the header and
the body of the message, keeping the entire communication recordless. By the time your stream message has been read, it is already deleted from Void’s servers, and it never exists on the computer of either the sender or the recipient. Working alongside existing e-mail systems, it uses an innovative messaging queue structure that is a hybrid between e-mail and IM.

Approximately 5,000 individuals and 15 smaller companies reportedly are using the service, which was released in September 2006 and is available for an annual subscription fee of $39.99 per user.

Who can’t use VaporStream? Basically, anyone working in an environment where his or her phone calls at work are monitored, such as brokers/dealers overseen by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The impact of FRCP amendments on e-mail management

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP), which governs procedures for civil suits in U.S. district courts, was amended in
December 2006 to cover electronically stored information (ESI) and lay out the ground rules for the electronic discovery (EDD) process. The new rules prescribe a 120-day timeframe for the parties to “meet and confer” and disclose where and how relevant ESI is stored, and the formats for the exchange of information.

The sum of the collection of those recent amendments effectively accelerates the EDD process by months—if not years. This acceleration means that having the tools in place to scour, distill and harvest
information from e-mails gives your legal team a decided advantage in preparing its case and strategy. The advantage can mean millions of dollars to larger corporations that are continuously in litigation, providing an easy business case for investing in e-mail management (EMM) and EDD software. It also forces opposing parties to gauge the cost of the EDD process and to possibly move toward settlement sooner if the costs outweigh the value of a potential settlement.

Under the new amendments, organizations must manage the EDD process from the outset of a lawsuit. The more automated and granular the software tool used in that process, the greater the advantage for the respective counsel.

Implementing a robust EMM solution requires that organizations first develop sound e-mail policies and implement the governance processes to ensure those policies are followed. If a reasonable policy is in place and enforced consistently, an organization might be able to justify deleting archived e-mail and IM messages that potentially could have been damaging. That can reduce risk and, ultimately, the cost associated with litigation.

EMM software providers that have integrated EDD capabilities, such as Zantaz, ZipLip and AXS-One, have seen a greater uptick in sales than other EMM solutions.

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