The email archiving headache

I have finally experienced the horrors of the email archiving dilemma first hand.

In prior roles, I had a solution already in place or the organization had no compliance worries. Now I work in a *smaller* organization (i.e., no budget for this) that is subject to SOX compliance and potential litigation over old contracts. Email storage quotas have never been enforced so email is often used as a personal filing cabinet. The email database is pushing the limits of Exchange 2003 and the storage device purchased for this purpose.

Here are the specifics of my dilemma.

  • Our corporate counsel’s research thus far still indicates seven years as an acceptable retention period for email. While email from only a subset of all users may be pertinent, that subset constantly changes.
  • Because of half-baked attempts to get our user base to archive, smart phones, use of personal PCs, and outages forcing frustrated email users to use other means, our email is stored all over the place.

  • We do not want to enforce mailbox limits by forcing users to archive, as they might either further delete email or archive onto their local drive potentially losing the files.
  • We can spend upwards to 60K on an e-Discovery software package from Symantec that would allow structured retention and retrieval of email and associated files. Without such a tool, we are left with the “needle in the haystack approach”, where we would need to assemble a duplicate and isolated environment of servers to restore tapes and archived email. If we are forced to perform discovery according to the applicable Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP), this could cost in the tens of thousands of dollars and take a long time.
  • The “needle in the haystack” solution does not prevent a user from “deleting the deleted” mail, so an email user acting nefariously could remove the audit trail and cover their tracks.
  • The existing Symantec Enterprise Vault product can archive email transparently based on storage limits or age. Although an email might be archived off of the Exchange system and moved to the archive system, this will be transparent to the end-user and the email will still be viewable in the Inbox. While this prevents the Exchange application from reaching unhealthy storage levels, it does not enforce any organization hygiene within an Inbox or other folder. Thus a user may have 10,000 entries in one folder, making many searches cumbersome and unwieldy.
  • IT has recently repurposed some disk hardware and has eliminated the immediate email disk space concerns; however, by the end of the calendar year, email will again be at a dangerous storage capacity.

Thus until I receive further direction/funding, IT will assume the policy of saving all email for seven years but on a *best-efforts* basis only; thus, email could still be destroyed via deliberate action from the end-user or failure of  a hardware component. Not a good solution.