For £15 per employee per month Iron Mountain is to provide a managed e-mail service complete with mail archiving, the company has announced.

The service, Active Archiving Service for Email, includes managed email storage, retention and legal discovery. Customers don't have to have the bother of running their own e-mail service and coping with steadily growing e-mail requirements, recovering lost e-mails, and archiving their own e-mails.

Iron Mountain is becoming a storage-focused specialised application service provider, and hopes to gain customers because of e-mail service and storage problems customers have and also because of regulatory and compliance fears over lost e-mails. The Enterprise Storage Group estimates that over the next 4 years, email archives will grow by an annual rate of 68 percent.

The Iron Mountain service is not cheap. A 100-employee SME using it would pay up £54k over a three-year period; that's a mountain of cash. There is a lot of convenience but it seems to come dear. How does that compare with the cost of buying am e- mail archival product and running it yourself?

A NetApp 2TB FAS3040 with e-mail archiving capability would cost c£46,000 to buy plus maintenance and support and that's quite expensive as there are cheaper suppliers. Against this benchmark Iron Mountain would come in a little less expensive. Its service also comes out of operating expense budgets rather than capital expenditure and might be more affordable to businesses because of that. However, it looks inflexibly expensive for smaller companies whereas larger companies could negotiate volume discounts.

Another comparable e-mail archiving product is Mimosa Systems' Nearpoint. A fully configured system, including options for disaster recovery and legal discovery, costs $172.79 (c£144) per mailbox in a 500-mailbox system, $86,395 (c£72,000) altogether. A basic system would cost $71.99 (c£60) per user. The volume discount for 2,000 users is $40 (c£33) per client. This makes the Iron Mountain service look a bargain.

However, with options such as e-discovery facilities and variable retention policies it's important when comparing products to measure like against like.

Mimosa has announced an expansion into Europe and opened a new sales office in Munich.