For many organizations, email messaging serves as the primary means of communication and dissemination of corporate records, both internally and externally. With ever-expanding volumes of email content coupled with the clear and present danger of electronic mail abuse, the challenges that corporate and IT executives face with their current email messaging infrastructures are daunting. Although email governance now has raised visibility in all competitive corporations, the focus is often myopic and fails to properly set forth authoritative archiving rules for corporate records. While corporate diligence on improper email etiquette is high (via quarantines and restricted content lists), the risks of weak email retention policies may not be properly addressed or understood. Well-founded email archiving and retention policies will lend more credibility and robustness to numerous corporate governance and compliance initiatives. In addition to the most visible regulatory mandates such as Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPAA, recent state-level legislation may require the retention of email for prescribed periods of time, serving up a host of new compliance challenges, with laws differing by state and industry. Because of the complicated regulatory climate, there is a high level of variance inherent in email governance best practices from company to company.
All IT managers would very much like to reduce the resources used to archive and retrieve corporate email; however, until knowledge workers are able to better prioritize and classify their emails by various predefined dimensions (such as user, topic, size, number and types of attachments, etc.), such resource reduction will be nearly impossible. Exacerbating common classification problems, many departmental email servers are configured to forever keep copies of all mail that proceeds through the system, creating storage and versioning problems, as emails may begin to reside in different native formats over time. A common counter-reaction to email overload is placing a dedicated delete policy on employee inboxes, thus relying on the user to properly back up and archive their emails and attached records on a "safe and secure" networked storage area. However, this "managed folders approach" can put too much responsibility in the hands of the individual email user (who is already overloaded with email content) and allows for mission-critical and sensitive emails (and their attachments) to get deleted and lost before they can be archived. Other problems may arise when electronic mail users choose to use their email account as a virtual file server, never properly storing mail-attached documents in a safe place because they think they can always access them from their account on a mail server. Retention concerns become more complicated when employees or consultants use personal computers or mobile devices that cannot be easily monitored and controlled by IT administrators. As enterprise messaging expands to include things such as instant messaging and other forms of mobile communication and collaboration, retention policies start to quickly break down. It is very difficult to know what is leaving organizational boundaries (possibly valuable intellectual property) by electronic messaging means, let alone save it in accordance with an archiving schedule.
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