LEGATO Systems, Inc. announced the results of an Australian e-mail practices survey conducted by Image & Data Manager magazine, which showed that Australian companies may be seriously breaching Archives and Corporations law by deleting business related e-mails. While 77 percent of the companies surveyed indicated that they use or accept e-mail for financial transactions such as orders, confirmations and pricing, 80 percent reported that they delete their e-mails within a month, with 42 percent deleting daily. Fifty percent say they print out less than five percent of their e-mails, so often no record is kept.

Dr. Adrian McCullagh, solicitor in the Corporate and Technology group at Freehills, an Australian law firm, commented, "While there is no general provision dealing with retention of e-mails in Australia, the corporations law requires financial documents to be retained for five years and government departments, under the Archive Act, need to retain e- mails for seven years. Clearly these results show that companies and their directors are at risk of prosecution."

"Compliance with e-mail retention and surveillance regulations is becoming mandatory for industries," said Matt Cain, senior vice president, in a recent META Group report. "Many companies have only a vague understanding of what needs to be done for regulatory compliance. These companies must be proactive in understanding regulations and implementing systems that enable compliance."

Of several key findings from the results, not surprising was the huge increase in e-mail usage with 45 percent reporting an increase of 100 percent or more in the last year. Perhaps more surprising was the high percentage (26 percent) who receive 51 to 100 e-mails per day, eight percent even saying they are getting 101 to 150 e-mails per day.

The survey also indicated that 48 percent of respondents have lost e-mails due to technology failure, 18 percent have been in a dispute with a customer over e-mails, and 48 percent have experienced interruption and dollar loss due to e-mail unavailability. This despite 79 percent reporting they have an e-mail protection system set up.

"E-mail has become the de facto work management tool in many organizations, issuing work requests, dealing with customers and negotiating contracts between trading partners, without any real management, measurement or control around the processes," said John Brand, senior program director, Electronic Business Strategies, with international firm META Group. "Organizations are only now realizing the impact that e-mail is having on circumventing traditional work and risk management systems (including management reporting) because of perceived complexities around available alternative solutions. Many organizations are now looking for products that bring management capabilities such as escalation, performance optimization, categorization, filtering, routing, archiving and other content intelligence services to e-mail systems. Leading organizations will therefore incorporate email management as a key component of their enterprise content management architectures beyond 2005."

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