Ranging from business compliance to the performance of Outlook itself there are many reasons why in today’s world a company needs to look for a successful Outlook email archiving solution. There are a number of issues that businesses face with regards to email archiving and compliance below this article focuses on the more critical issues and some of the solutions to these problems. Whilst this article is focusing predominantly on businesses that use the Outlook and Microsoft Exchange systems much of what is discussed will be relevant to all businesses, particularly in the US and the UK.
Research has shown that the average worker can spend up to 90 minutes of every workday managing their mailboxes and performing archiving and data management tasks. This leads to loss of productivity to the entire business. Aside from the productivity issues most Exchange servers are only set to backup information once per day, meaning that any emails that have been deleted through the course of a day are not archived this can also be said to the auto archiving feature that Outlook has. Also due to the way that the auto-archive feature works, finding a specific email that has been archived is incredibly laborious and time consuming.
There are several issues that need to be looked at with regard to the need for a good email archiving solution, these issues are outlined below.
Data flow over time
Before looking at any of the legal ramifications or performance problems of not having a good email archiving solutions it is important to first look at the points which create these issues.
Even smaller companies will generate massive amounts of emails over a long period of time. This is caused by storage of emails and attachments, however part of the problem stems from having all versions of these emails stored for example: an email is sent out with a 1 MB attachment to every employee (30 people). Every reply to that email is also now being stored along with the original email text. Whilst the email sizes are not of any real significance at this point, over a period of a year with multiple instances of this example the storage required will add up, especially with taking into account the attachment being saved also.
Many businesses feel that they have no problems with archiving as they have the Outlook auto archiving in place for their company emails. This unfortunately is not as helpful as it may at first seem to be. As mentioned earlier, any emails deleted prior to the auto-archive taking place are not archived. This in itself provides massive issues with compliance which will be covered later.
A common problem shared by all companies that rely on the Outlook auto archive tool is initially the build up of emails and more specifically the overall deterioration of performance from the Microsoft Exchange servers as a consequence of a large email volume. As the Exchange servers fill with archived emails the system begins to slow and takes longer to perform each backup. The servers filling also increase the chance of a critical systems failure.
Outlook saves all email data as.pst files when it archives the old emails. Many.pst files will be created over time as bulk archives are created over a period of time. How often this happens depends on the specific settings a company has organised themselves and how many emails the company has sent and received within specifically set parameters. These parameters would be determined by a company’s individual settings. The more data stored on a.pst file the slower the servers and Outlook will function for their various daily tasks such as a backup.
A more pressing concern with the way that Outlook auto archive functions however is that bulk email packages are saved as.pst files, specifically a maximum storage per file of 20 GB. 20 GB of space can store thousands of emails; if a.pst file is corrupted the information on every one of those emails can potentially be lost forever. Aside from the difficulty for an individual to navigate these files to locate specific emails when called upon to do so, if the files are lost this can provide very costly issues with regard to compliance.
The issues of compliance covers multiple different points that will affect companies to different degrees depending on what countries they are in or do business with. That said all of these points are worth understanding as the laws are quickly changing world wide to cover the issues raised by emails being regarded as legal documents. Whilst the specifics below are predominantly for the UK, other countries will have similar laws with different specifics laid out.
Freedom of Information Act 2000 (UK)
The public have the right to ask for copies of emails from public authorities. The authorities then have 20 days in which to provide the copies.
Data Protection Act
Individuals have the right to request for copies of personal data held about them by an authority or company. The authority or company then has a 40 day time frame for compliance; failure to comply can lead to heavy fines.
The highest possible award at a tribunal for unfair dismissal in the UK is £66,200. With more communication in the places of work happening via email, companies need to ensure that they have easy access to all possible evidence available to protect themselves
A wronged party has 6 years from the date that a contract has been breached or a civil wrong committed to bring a court action. With emails potentially being used by either party it is necessary for a company or organisation to be able to access any information required that was stored within those previous 6 years. This means it is paramount that an organisation has the best possible email archiving system available to them. The system the organisation uses can make the difference email1and1 between winning and losing a court action. Furthermore inability to provide requested evidence can result in heavy fines depending on the nature of the court action, thus having the ability to store and easily find the information could avoid these fines before a court action ever reaches a court.
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act
This is a piece of US legislation also affects any company outside of the US which is listed on NASDAQ or the New York Stock Exchange, including subsidiaries of US companies that are themselves based outside of the US. The Act states that any transactional data meet the requirement of the Act. Furthermore the Act sates over several sections that an organisation’s IT department is obligated to be able to provide any and all electronic data pertinent to a potential case during the discovery period in the event of a lawsuit or investigation. Simply put an organisation must be able to provide copies of any electronic data as requested during the discovery period, the period prior to a case where evidence is collected to prepare for the legal proceeding, to a legal action. Failure to provide the evidence in the discovery period results in heavy fines which are weighted against the nature of the legal proceeding.
Most of the problems outlined above are not new and have been occurring for years, however with the exponential increase in the use of computers and by extension email these problems have begun to be far more severe and obvious. The only possible solution is for a company to utilise an email archiving solution. The qualities one should look for in an email archiving solution, as outlined by the problems listed above, are as follows:
- Can function independently from the Outlook’s auto archive facility
- Allows for settings to be standardised with capacity for users to create and archive new email folders with ease
- A program that does not rely on storing emails in bulk but instead saves each email individually so as to avoid the issues of file corruption. However still provides the functionality to archive files at the same time
- A solution that allows for customised archiving structures allowing companies to tailor how and where the files are saved.
- A solution which allows for deletion upon archiving of the emails from Outlook to again avoid high email volume effecting Microsoft Exchange servers
- Intuitive design to negate the need for training or complications prior to use of the solution. The point of the solution is to increase productivity not to replace the reason why productivity was down.