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Why Small Businesses Need to Archive Email

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You Are Not Too Small to Archive, in fact you have to or you could be in big trouble down the road.

Up until now, many small business owners don't think about or even how to archive email or may not even know what it is.  Until lately it's mainly been seen as a big business issue where big corporations have the unyielding burden of retaining the e-mail of thousands of employees for as long as the law requires it of them. 

Did you know that late in 2006 e-discovery amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure became effective?   The new amendments govern electronic discovery in cases filed in federal courts, including pending cases.  The amendments recognize a new category of discoverable material called “Electronically Stored Information” – ESI and many states have adopted discovery procedures based on the federal system.

According to recent industry research as much as 75 percent of a company’s intellectual property is contained within email and messaging systems and this makes email more than just a vital business communications tool; it constitutes an electronic substitute of legal business documentation. In other words, that email or IM from from John in accounting could one day be used as legal evidence in a lawsuit.

More and more businesses are being required to archive email in order to comply with legiSLAtion and lawsuits.

What’s that you say? You don’t archive Exchange? Still not archiving Outlook? These four arguments might change your mind.

  • Regulatory and compliance requirements: Regulatory organizations and governmental agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission have established strict requirements for email retention, as well as its accessibility and security. To comply, organizations must establish archiving systems that adequately preserve and protect emails, and ensure their contents can be retrieved—unaltered in any way—and within a reasonable amount of time. 
  • E-discovery and legal investigations: In the event of an audit, e-discovery or investigation related to your business or personnel, there’s a good chance you'll be required to produce certain—if not copious—amounts of email material. Will you be able to do so in a timely manner, and without draining your resources? An archiving solution securely and systematically stores records of your emails in a central, easy-to-search repository, where they cannot be tampered with in any way. 
  • Saying data is inaccessible doesn't necessarily make it so, and the other side is likely to file motions to compel production.  Saying it is too expensive may not work, either. Judges have become increasingly skeptical of statements that "it will cost thousands of dollars" to restore—they are starting to demand alternative estimates from other IT vendors when they think the cost claims are excessive. Moreover, the opposing party may be required to produce with all objections cast to the winds by the court if the requesting party can show that information is important, relevant and unavailable elsewhere; not such an undue burden considering respective resources; and important issues are involved.
  • Data storage: With the growing volumes of email circulating these days, it doesn’t take long for a server to reach capacity. An auto-archiving solution lets you offload messages and maintain optimal server performance. It will also minimize storage costs and make restores much easier in the event of server failure.
  • Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery: Consider all the valuable information sitting in all the inboxes and outboxes of every employee at your organization. Should your local data systems, PC hard drives or mail servers become unavailable, will you be able to access a complete record of all emails?  If you archive, you will.

Backing Up e-mails is NOT Email Archiving

It’s important to keep in mind that archiving is more than simple storage, and it’s not same thing as online backup. Archiving is a systematic approach to preserving the content contained in email messages—intact and unaltered—in a non-productive and secure environment where it can be quickly searched and accessed at a later date.  Archiving is a best practice that responds to functional and regulatory considerations, as well as legal considerations such as e-discovery, legal holds and early case assessments.

But managing an email archiving solution can be a tricky and time-consuming process. What messages do you need to archive—and for how long? Keeping messages one minute longer than you need to could also leave you in hot water. In an upcoming blog, we discuss on premise vs hosted email archiving.

Why hosted archiving? Organizations sometimes lack the resources needed to ensure consistent and well-planned email archiving policies—or simply don’t want the hassle of managing them. A hosted solution can be quickly set up to automatically save the right data in the right place for the right amount of time.  It might even help you save a significant amount of money.