Several years ago, a large multinational corporation implemented an email archive system in order to better manage its volume of email and the potential complications associated with backup media in its frequent litigations. Now, the corporation’s General Counsel is concerned about the volume of email that must be searched, processed, reviewed and produced in every litigation, and the Chief Information Officer has realized that the exponential growth of the email archive system is not sustainable. The corporation is exploring ways to manage the risks and costs associated with its existing email archive.
Benefits and Risks of Email Archives
There are a number of benefits associated with email archives and, when managed properly, such archives can be an important asset to any organization. However, they can become a liability if not properly implemented and managed.
First, email archives often make business and IT operations more efficient and cost-effective. Second, email archives can be useful—and are often necessary—for enforcing regulatory or other legal requirements relating to the retention of records. Third, email archives can help consolidate email in a central location. This can make managing, searching and collecting relevant email more efficient and cost effective. Fourth, email archives can facilitate the implementation and management of legal holds. These systems minimize the risk of loss of data necessary for legal purposes by placing control of such data in the hands of the organization, rather than the individual.
With that said, no technology offers a perfect solution to data management. It is, therefore, important to be mindful of the risks posed by the use of email archives. First, the functionality promoted by many providers has often been tested only on a small volume of data. Organizations frequently find that when such systems are subjected to data volumes typically found in large organizations, functionality is lost or its effectiveness is decreased. Second, the idea of retaining all email and reducing the risk of loss may be appealing, until you consider the implications. The volume of email can quickly become unmanageable. And the mantra that “storage is cheap” is simply not accurate. Storage is not cheap when an organization is retaining all email, nor is it cheap to manage that data and the resulting risks of keeping the data longer than is needed for business or legal reasons. Third, much of the data flowing through an organization’s systems is not needed for either business or legal reasons. But an email archive does not make substantive judgments about whether a particular message is critical to business operations, or is just junk. Fourth, limitations in email archive technology often do not allow for easy deletion or extraction of data. Being able to retain data easily where necessary is helpful, but only if you can manage the data after it has been ingested into the email archive just as easily.
Understanding the Purpose of an Email Archive
The most important step in properly implementing and managing an email archive system is understanding why the organization is acquiring (or has acquired) the email archive in the first place. Does the organization have regulatory or other legal obligations that it needs to meet? Is the organization primarily looking to be able to better manage its email? Or is the organization concerned about the risk of loss of critical email? The answers to these questions will inform the appropriate use of the email archive. And when it comes to minimizing risk and maximizing effectiveness, there are a number of factors to consider.
Factors to Consider
This is Part One of Two in a set of Tips of the Month addressing email archives. The Tip of the Month for June will address preserving, searching, collecting and producing data from email archives.
For inquiries related to this Tip of the Month, please contact Anthony J. Diana at or Therese Craparo at .
Learn more about Mayer Brown’s Electronic Discovery & Records Management practice or contact Anthony J. Diana at , Michael E. Lackey at , or Ed Sautter at .
You have no pages selected. Please select pages to email then resubmit.