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E-mail archiving and management: From niche to core component

E-mail management (EMM) is hot. Growing e-mail volumes, increased regulatory and legal pressures and concerns about electronic records make managing e-mail a top priority for many organizations. And with a dynamic, healthy marketplace exhibiting a flurry of new entrants and consolidations, the competition is fierce in the e-mail management and archiving marketplace.

Today, the typical U.S. knowledge worker sends and receives approximately 25,000 e-mails per year--and that continues to grow. Various research reports indicate that the number of corporate e-mails will increase from 9.7 billion in 2000 to an estimated 40 billion daily in 2006. Approximately one-fifth of companies have been ordered by courts to produce employee e-mail.

Those messages contain an increasing volume of critical electronic records. Twenty years ago, no permanent records existed that weren't physically printed on paper, due to legal precedents. Now 60 percent to 70 percent of business critical data is, at some point, contained in e-mail, so the need to manage, store, search and retrieve those electronic records is paramount. EMM is now mission-critical.

EMM projects are increasingly sponsored by executives, rather than being just an IT initiative. Some other trends have emerged in the past year: A shift has occurred away from simple archiving of e-mail messages to actual real-time, active surveillance; e-mail messages are increasingly viewed as a formal record, a subset of all electronic records; and messages coming in are tagged and categorized, which begins the compliance and governance process much sooner than before.

The clearest example of active surveillance is the tremendous demand for outbound content compliance (OCC), where messages can be halted from exiting the organization if they contain potential regulatory violations. Also, messages coming into the organization are more actively monitored.

Kon Leong, CEO of ZipLip, says, "Apart from OCC, the biggest trend today is the desire by firms to automatically tag e-mail data coming into an organization with categories and metadata so that corporate governance and policies can be applied to digital data. Not only does this provide significant advantages in any (future) litigation, it dramatically improves compliance, corporate governance and knowledge management around e-mail."

"E-mail management is a key factor in compliance and corporate governance procedures, and a potential landmine in legal discovery initiatives," said Bill Lyons, CEO of AXS-One. "That's why it shouldn't be seen as a secondary function with niche technology, but as a core component of records compliance management."

The e-mail management market--including instant messaging (IM)--has been so active that the past year has been more of a Wild West shootout than a software marketplace. There are so many choices on the tableā€”more than 200--that user organizations have a difficult time making software selections. And throw in the fact that there are also hardware-based solutions, sort of an "EMM in a box," such as that from Mirapoint (mirapoint.com), and the decision becomes even more daunting.

When considering EMM solutions, organizations should bear in mind that: 1.) Certain vendors specialize in specific vertical markets; 2.) Some vendors have run into scaling limitations due to the constraint of their base architecture when volumes soar; and 3.) There are varying approaches, such as hosted vs. in-house, storage-centric vs. process-centric, and collaborative vs. archival (of course, there are offerings that straddle some of those basic approaches). So what is best for one organization may not be best for the organization across the street. As with any IT decision, hard requirements come first, flashy demonstrations later.

Ultimately, it is support after the sale that may tip the balance in favor of a vendor choice, because that is what your organization will live with for the next several years, and its performance may have stark implications during litigation or regulatory scrutiny. The consequences of poor vendor selection and associated implementation may have significant consequences for not only the organization, but also for individual managers within it, in the form of fines or even jail time.

Vendors offering hosted alternatives like Zantaz, Computer Associates (CA)--which bought iLumin--and newcomer Fortiva argue that they can take the load off an IT department for managing millions--even billions--of messages.

"The question users need to ask themselves is, 'Should this be our core competency?' " says Paul Chen, CEO of Fortiva. Providers that offer in-house solutions, such as Hummingbird maintain that the only way to achieve complete compliance in highly regulated industries like financial services and healthcare is to have software running inhouse, on not only the internal mail server, but also the gateway.

Some of the leading EMM solutions in the marketplace are reviewed below:

AXS-One reports more than 100 customer installations, ranging in size from almost 1,000 to 100,000 users. Its customers include: AXA Financial, New York Life, Deutsche Bank, Healthnet and Countrywide Financial.

The AXS-One Compliance Platform delivers e-mail message archiving for a range of platforms including Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Notes/Domino, Bloomberg Mail, SunOne Messaging and others that support RFC 822 messaging standards. It provides a single interface to disparate corporate content systems, addressing the requirements of managing long-term messaging content storage, but also presenting all information in context. The solution includes integrated functionality for secure, scalable e-mail (and IM) management including capture and extraction, storage, supervision, filtering and blocking, access, search and retrieval

Using configurable options, schedule-based extraction from mail servers is based on time periods to capture messages, minimizing the need for additional support and network infrastructure, and minimizing impact on mail servers. The extraction of e-mail header information (To, From, Cc:, Bcc:, Time and Date, and Subject) is used for basic indexing and is also completed at that stage.


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