I was visiting a client in manufacturing last week and he was telling me about his recent issue with email storage.
This CIO is struggling with the mailbox quotas enforced through their IT process to control the size of the company’s growing storage requirements.
He felt strongly that he needed to keep his emails. I hear this a lot.
In general we keep records for only three reasons. Either we’re asked to, we think they are of use or because we think they’ll protect us. In other words, regulation, importance or fear.
Our handling of these factors is almost totally personal; it varies from person to person. We don’t understand the regulations fully, we over-estimate the importance of our emails and we view risk only as individuals. The outcome is we either consciously retain too many emails or we find the evaluation process too complex and we fall back on storage technology to defer the decision on our emails until some point in the future.
The mailbox quota that many businesses implement to minimise the size of their email server more often than not just moves the problem rather than solving it. The storage requirement still grows at the same rate. In fact, enforcing a mailbox limit can actually do more harm than good.
When pressured to reduce the size of their mailboxes, staff are forced to delete emails at their own discretion. Messages that are considered important to the individual make the cut.
A complexity with this system is that it is hard, if not impossible to determine if an email is going to become important in the future.
There are other inefficiencies when it comes to managing email and there are plenty of businesses that haven’t yet implemented anything around this. A common issue is the IT department having to go back through old tapes to recover a particular email. It’s incredibly time consuming. While the search function in new email programs is progressing, it’s far from a solution for businesses.
Having no archiving in place besides the users’ mailbox enables great creativity at the desktop. I’ve seen many email users use their deleted items folder as a storage folder sometimes with itemised folders, which I liken to keeping your lunch in the rubbish bin. This might sound strange to most of us but we all have unique or quirky preferences. By not offering an automated and standard process, corporate interests are likely not being met.
There is no getting around the fact that all businesses benefit from an automated archiving system in an efficient facility. We reduce the size of the exchange server using system archiving tools. We need to try and remember that email was designed for sending and receiving.
So why the resistance to email archiving?
I think there is a battle of wills out there between IT Managers and their Records Manager colleagues. There is a fear that an organisation may invest in either document storage or email archiving but rarely both. In reality, the strategies may overlap but serve different, both valid objectives.
Users have a fear of ‘big brother’ and to an extent consider their emails to be private. Of course this is not the case but is something most of us would confess to relating to.
In fact, fear has played a big role in the perception and adoption of email archiving. At one point in time, fear drove the majority of sales strategies for these products. At Redman Solutions, we don’t necessarily see that as the main driver today. We quickly learned we are better off talking to people about greater utilisation, proving efficiency rather than establishing gloom and fear. I like to take the positive approach and it’s actually very simple. There’s no argument. People keep their email so let’s store it efficiently. At the end of the day, there is nothing that will force an organisation to adopt email archiving if they aren’t ready and the culture isn’t right within their workplace.
Many businesses don’t see email archiving as mission critical and are prepared to put it lower on their radar for now.
Working with the technology and the businesses that use it, all I can say is that there are terrific benefits that will strengthen your organisation in more ways than one.