In a society addicted to DVRs, Twitters, Facebook postings, blogging and a constant influx of digital information, email has become the new dial tone. If there is any interruption, life as we know it suspends. AOL’s most recent Email Addiction Survey reveals our perhaps unhealthy obsession, reporting that 62 percent of people check work email on the weekends, 55 percent of mobile email users upgraded to a new phone just to get email, and 59 percent of survey respondents admit to checking email from the bathroom. 
Not only does an email interruption affect society’s obsession with the technology, it has a profound impact on businesses, which is often only noticeable when systems fail and emails are no longer accessible. Employees are suddenly caught in a black hole, and operations halt while hours or even days are spent trying to recover valuable communications and data. It is critical to get back to business as usual by recovering messages and re-establishing the dial tone. 

The Ultimate Collaboration Tool

There is a growing corporate reliance on email. An individual’s ability to send and receive emails now tends to outweigh more traditional modes of business communication. In fact, industry analysts report that as much as 97 percent of all business communication now occurs via email. IDC estimates the number of email boxes worldwide will top 2 billion in 2010. This is an increase of more than 297 percent in a decade.
Email is a powerful connector in our professional and personal lives, and when email outages occur – the digital equivalent of a power outage - the two most pressing issues for end users are how soon they will get their email back and what important messages or events they are missing in the meantime. The IT person is charged with answering these questions, fixing the underlying problem and dealing with the pressure of unhappy – sometimes irate – corporate end users until the problem is fixed.

Email Outages = Negative Publicity

Email outages also affect the bottom line for businesses when news coverage of these outages gives a negative slant to an organization’s carefully crafted image. A prime example is Research In Motion. More than 8 million people have BlackBerry subscriptions worldwide, and when the RIM network goes out, the company is showered with negative news coverage. While outages have been rare in BlackBerry's history, they have prompted angry backlashes against the company.
Earlier this year, an email outage at the White House shut down all incoming and outgoing email for more than eight hours. This resulted in widespread news coverage of the outage from a news conference where the press secretary had to apologize on live television for the lack of any email contact. The Washington Post reported that “several administration officials said that business had ground to a halt because of the disruption – and that they were fearing the deluge of messages that would come when service was restored.”

Defining your Recovery Objectives

With huge business impacts and negative publicity looming behind any type of email outage, the impact becomes more significant. Exchange downtime and data loss can occur on many different levels with greatly varying degrees of probability. The fact of the matter is that email interruptions are inherently unavoidable. Also, often the seemingly manageable, quick fix types of interruptions snowball into much bigger issues that require days and sometimes weeks to fully resolve. No matter the size of the outage, it is important to realize the impact of the event, what it involved and, most importantly, how to handle the situation the next time it happens. This requires IT organizations to look closely at whether or not their current data protection technologies and processes are sufficient to meet the fast and often granular recovery needs of their organization. 
The first step to any adequate protection for email systems is identifying what is best for a particular environment. Most companies rely on Microsoft Exchange Server, which leads to a particular data protection approach with specific criteria. Data protection for Microsoft Exchange is driven by two user requirements: recovery time objectives and recovery point objectives ― the speed by which you are able to recover and resume minute-to-minute operations, as well as the age of the Exchange data recovered.  
When weighing email data protection options, such as traditional backups to tape or disk, snapshots, replication or real-time continuous protection, IT managers must first have a crystal clear understanding as to the expectations of their organization surrounding the email system recoverability – as well as the availability. Is the email system truly business critical in that it’s closely tied to their organization’s ability to generate revenue and provide high levels of customer service?  What do their users expect in terms of RPOs and RTOs? What are the demands of regulatory agencies and the associated compliance requirements?
Once you have answered these questions and implement a reliable data protection strategy for your email system, you will be armed with the ability to bring your business back on the grid when an unexpected event occurs. It is difficult to know just how stranded you would feel without having experienced a failure, but it is not difficult to look ahead, be prepared and empower your business.

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