If you’re like me you probably save all your incoming e-mail messages, or at least the important ones – which tend to be most of them. I do so because when I’m doing research on articles I want an “official” record of what was said, and even when it is just between friends I’ve gotten in the habit of saving messages as a matter of fact. This can however add up to a lot of messages that need archiving.
And even if you’re disregarding the spam and those notes from friends, chances are you get too much e-mail. Trying to save it all can be daunting, and for a small business this can add up to costs in both time and resources. And while it might be easy to junk those unwanted solicitations for Viagra; saving business communications isn’t just a good idea it might even be required.
Depending on the policy of your company or industry you might legally need to maintain e-mail communication between clients. For reasons of company and federal rules, some individuals may have to save virtually all in-coming and out-going e-mail. But this brings up multiple issues to consider, including those on the operational side in regards to management policies, as well as the legal compliance side. And alas, these are not independent of each other.
Archiving of e-mail can help a business, should it find itself in hot water, especially if there are any specific governmental regulations with regard to document retention. In this case it could include not just e-mail but also instant messaging. Thanks to the recent amendments to the U.S. Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP), businesses in non-regulatory situations however are realizing more and more the risk of not archiving their email since legal discovery events typically extend to e-mail and other forms of messaging. Thus the best approach may simply be to save everything except spam for a certain number of days. And in most cases that seems sufficient for evidentiary purposes.
There are multiple methods for archiving of e-mail, including using an additional server to house the data. This could also include backing up to disc, and even after a certain amount of time to tape. In these cases a business would have to worry less about the theft or loss of any private or sensitive data by a third party. The other option would be to archive e-mail to a hosted service provider. While possibly more expensive outsourcing your archiving needs could actually free up your IT resources so you can focus on other more strategic initiatives.
Disadvantages of e-mail backup systems
No system of e-mail archiving is perfect. And even when in place, there are always risks involved whether a business is backing up e-mail in-house or to an off-site provider. In the case of in-house e-mail archiving, there are issues such as system failure or just an old-fashioned tearing of tape can result in a lost e-mail. On-site e-mail storage could also require additional training and support, but this could still be done by a part-time or contracted IT manager. Outsourcing of the archiving will allow you to forego those expenses, but this brings up the issue of security.
So does hosting the archives on-site make sense, or can your small business look to outsource all of your digital communication. Make a check list, such as the one below and see what might best fit your needs:
1) Is company or federal regulation required for the archiving of industry communication?
2) What types and how much of e-mail communication should be backed up?
3) Does this include e-mail from support staff, or just those with financial clients or others dealing with business arrangements?
4) Do you have the support personal and space for an additional server?
Of course at the end of the day e-mail archival is only as good as the system. The key to its success is that people use it. If this isn’t regularly backed up and maintained, either in-house or off-site, then it’s just money wasted. For it to work the system must be simple and reliable.