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E-mail archiving: options for SMBs

Initially, potential customers of SaaS applications were concerned about security, but over time, that issue has abated. "Most organizations have now realized that outsourced storage is much more secure than shipping backup tapes that could be lost in transit," says Matt Smith, COO of LiveOffice. "And we also reduce the number of internal staff that need to deal with e-mail data, which can be among the most sensitive within a company." In addition, e-mail software upgrades are handled by LiveOffice, eliminating that burden from the IT department.

As a third-party outsourcer, LiveOffice provides specialized expertise to its customers. "Ultimately, companies are responsible for what happens to their e-mail," Smith continues, "but using a resource such as LiveOffice can add peace of mind by turning over that function to a trusted third party."

Because messaging and security are core competencies for LiveOffice, it often has an edge over its client companies, which generally are covering a wide range of applications via internal IT departments. On the financial side, Smith points out, customers can avoid capital expenses to support activities that are not core to their own businesses. "They can also expand and downsize more easily than if they are maintaining on-site enterprise products," he says.

Because e-mail messages pile up so quickly, many companies delete them after a relatively brief period--sometimes as soon as 90 days. "Two-thirds of companies still do that," Smith says. "There is no set guideline for retention in many cases, just precedents set for what is ‘reasonable.’" A safer interval, he suggests, is three years, and five is even better. "Having the flexibility to expand storage reduces risk, because when a company cannot produce the messages requested in e-discovery, it is assumed to be non-responsive," he says.

The impact of failure to comply with regulations often takes companies by surprise, according to Oliver Brew, VP of the Technology, Media, Telecom Division at Hiscox, a syndicate of Lloyd’s of London that provides specialty insurance.

"Exposure of electronic data, including e-mails, has risks not only with respect to laws and potential fines, but also has repercussions when customers’ data is compromised," Brew says. "For example, when personal data such as credit card or healthcare information is accessed, companies may get sued. In addition, if there is a data breach, the company must also notify customers who are affected by it, which can become very expensive."

Therefore, having secure archiving for e-mail messages should be a top priority. He advises companies to also cover basics such as virus protection for e-mails, which, if not handled properly, can result in loss of data and encryption of sensitive information. In addition, companies should develop policies to cover employee education and procedures for managing their e-mail messages securely.

With e-mail storage requirements growing at about 35 percent per year, according to Osterman Research, the need for archiving will only increase over time. Backups are not a substitute for a formal archiving process. Companies that have not yet addressed this issue should move forward to explore the options, and not wait for a situation where they are under duress to respond to a discovery request or even an internal need to locate information.



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