Most enterprises haven't actually taken the step to message archiving yet. A growing number of administrators, though, are starting to look at the possibility, whether to meet growing statutory requirements or to simply free up needed storage space. Meanwhile, analysts now advocate the inclusion of archiving in corporate e-mail policies, and some of the archiving products already on the market are designed to automatically enforce such policies.
Five or ten years ago, much of the policy discussion in Internet news groups revolved around putting together a comprehensive set of e-mail policies. Now the talk has moved on to adding new practices for new messaging scenarios. In many cases, the new procedures translate into archiving.
"I have about 30 users on my network, and everyone is using [their] deleted items to hold [their] e-mail. I want to set up a procedure to archive their e-mail by the year," wrote one administrator in May of 2002.
"I was wondering if anyone could tell me how I could archive users' mailboxes so that the messages are not on the [Microsoft] Exchange Server, [thereby] freeing up disk space," according to another recent posting.
"I am required to archive all mail for 5 years in an easily recoverable format. All mail relaying through, arriving at, or originating from Microsoft Exchange servers must be included in this archive. The archive must be stored in two facilities," wrote another administrator.
Use of Archiving Policies Growing but Not Yet Prevalent
The Meta Group correctly forecast back in 2001 that, "By 2003, most companies will have a policy in place and will revise it annually to account for new e-mail features [and] developments."
Increasingly, analysts are now advising companies to add archiving to their existing policies. "An organization [needs] an e-mail retention policy to define what records must be kept, how they should be stored and retrieved, and how long they should be preserved. These can be based on criteria defined [either] by the organization or by regulatory requirements," according to Gailene Nelson, a consulting analyst with Ferris Research.
"Archiving practices should definitely be part of the overall e-mail policy," agreed Michael Osterman, president of Osterman Research. "With traditional backup, it's often hard to get at the data. In full-blown archiving, however, e-mails are indexed and stored according to retention requirements. Some systems will take attachments, too. These products let you manage the audit trail as well, so that end users can't go back in and change the [original] content."
As part of these policies, organizations should create classification schemes for archiving various kinds of e-mails on tape and/or optical media, as well as for restoring and purging messages, experts say. Copyright issues ought to be considered, too.
In one recent survey by Osterman Research, however, only 19 percent of respondents answered "Yes" to the question, "Do you have different levels of backup or archiving for your messaging servers based on different retention requirements?"
Survey participants were also asked to describe their organizations' practices for backing up or archiving end users' "critical messaging data." A total of 44.1 percent replied, "Users back up their own critical data electronically" -- a full percentage point more than the 43 percent who said, "The IS department archives critical data." Another 29 percent admitted that, "We have no policies or requirements here."
Also, according to the survey results, the mean length of time for keeping backup tapes before recycling amounted to merely 69 days.