Mistakes in E-mail Records Management
- Mistake 1: Believing you can live without an
e-mail management system for now. The costs
of e-mail storage, the impact on overwhelmed e-mail servers,
and the legal and credibility risks from not being able to
find e-mails when required can make complacency costly and
damaging. The damage can go beyond fines and settlements to
a loss in corporate credibility that drives down a company’s
Develop a comprehensive e-mail management program immediately:
Establish appropriate employee e-mail usage and content
rules. Monitor employee e-mail to ensure compliance with
Apply the organization’s records-retention schedule
to e-mail records.
Establish that e-mail messages are to be saved only for
legitimate business or legal reasons.
Migrate official e-mail records to an approved e-mail
Purge e-mails that are not official records from the e-mail
system on a predetermined schedule.
2: Destroying all e-mail by auto-purges or mailbox caps.
Some companies, concluding that they need drastic action,
implement 30-, 60-, or 90-day e-mail deletion policies or
mailbox size limits. This approach is inherently flawed
and flies in the face of decades of records-management practices.
Records-management best practices dictate that the company
determine what it legally and operationally needs to keep,
determine the retention period, and implement that policy
consistently, regardless of records’ formats.
Do for e-mail what is done for other business records:
Establish a policy that includes legal and operational
Train employees and provide ongoing e-mail policy communications
Give employees the tools by which appropriate e-mail can
Allow managers to immediately modify the system to identify
and protect additional classes of e-mail as required.
3: Using backup tapes as an archive. Many
companies think they are archiving their e-mail because
they back them up onto tapes. But the goal of tape backup
is to create a temporary copy that can be accessed and restored
if the primary system has a failure. Backup tapes are not
intended for routine exploration, discovery, or retrieval.
They are almost impossible to efficiently search because
they are not indexed. Locating unindexed, individual e-mail
records is difficult and expensive.
Backing up is a critical process, but separate from archiving.
Compliance, records management, and legal departments need
to work closely with IT to ensure that the backup policy
is reasonable and in synch with the organization’s
retention policy. A good, reasonable practice is to keep
only daily tapes and to rotate those tapes every 30, 60,
or 90 days based on the company’s operational requirements.
business records should be stored and managed in a digital
archive designed for low-cost, long-term archiving. This
archive should have tools for easy searching, discovery,
organization, and retention management.
4: Assuming that the company’s existing document-management
system can handle e-mail archiving. Companies
with a major investment in a document-management system
may believe that this system can be adopted for e-mail management
archiving. The volume and indexing requirements for enterprise-wide
e-mail archiving, however, are dramatically greater than
standard document-management volumes.
Determine the company’s monthly and annual e-mail
archiving volume and indexing requirements. The IT department
needs to determine whether the existing document-management
system can scale to support the company’s e-mail volumes.
IT should also evaluate the scalability and costs of dedicated
e-mail management archiving solutions versus an upgrade
to the document-management solutions. In most instances,
a dedicated e-mail management solution will be more cost-effective
and provide much greater scalability
than enhancing the document-management system.
5: Implementing an e-mail retention policy that was optimized
for paper. Many companies try to implement
paper records–retention policies without considering
the unique requirements of e-mail. Implementing
e-mail retention based solely on a paper records–retention
policy will probably result in an onerous process that employees
will not adopt. The user classification processes for paper
records don’t work for e-mail because of the volume
of e-mail generated. Also, there are too many record classifications
for end users to practically classify their e-mail. Administration
of e-mail retention cannot be delegated in the same way
as with paper records.
The company must make e-mail retention simple for its employees.
Existing paper records–retention policies can be used
as a framework for developing record classifications, rules,
schedules, and policies that have been simplified and optimized
for e-mail records. User intervention should be kept to
a minimum to help ensure adoption.
a company is committing one or more of these mistakes, it
should consider the following:
volumes and potential e-mail storage costs will continue
to escalate for the foreseeable future.
Many lawyers now refer to e-mail as “evidence mail.”
The rash of accounting irregularities and allegations
of wrongful document destruction are driving stronger
enforcement of existing regulations as well as new laws
with stronger penalties.
Murphy is an executive vice president of Iron Mountain
a global records and information management services provider.