Voice over IP telephone calls are digital. I know this is obvious but bear with me. Service providers and VoIP product sellers will provide applications layered on VOIP, conferencing and instant messaging for example, even video. Now let's step aside for a moment.

Businesses affected by compliance regulations and susceptibility to legal discovery requests have to archive paperwork, Word documents, spreadsheets, and e-mails. These have to be indexed so as to enable response to requests for all information on transaction X. Already digital communications have to be recorded.

So, and back to VoIP, will VoIP sessions have to be stored also for compliance and legal discovery purposes? Do regimes such as Sarbox and Basel II mean that VOIP-based business communications have to be stored? And, and this is a really big 'and', does it mean that they have to be indexed?

If it means they have to be recorded then is this a big problem? I think it can be. Five hundred spoken VoIP words will take up more storage space than 500 e-mail words. A VoIP session may involve more than 500 words. There will be two or more speakers.

A VoIP instant message will (will it?) mean more storage space than the equivalent word count AOL Instant message. A VoIP-based video will involve a lot more storage and there may be many people taking part.

The cost of VoIP needs to encompass the compliance and discovery-related storage costs of keeping VoIP messages. The more messages here are and the more rich these messages are, from the spoken word to video, the more impact this will have. So much so that a large VoIP project could possibly return negative ROI because of the ancillary storage costs.

The indexing is a whole new ball game. It's easy to index stored words. How do you index stored VoIP sessions? Does somebody have to listen to them and manually index them? Does the listener have to include in the index which speaker says what? Logically, yes. Does the listening index maker have to decide what is relevant and what is not in a VoIP conversation? Logically, yes. If they make a wrong decision does that expose the business to potential legal penalties for not keeping a record of things it should have? Logically it might.

Does it mean that the indexing of VOIP calls could take so long and be so slow that it lags behind the storing of VoIP sessions? Yes, it could.

What about VoIP-based video? To index that does it mean that someone has to watch it and index which participant said what, and which participant showed what, in terms of diagrams and so forth?

Logically yes. Does it mean that the indexing viewer has to make decisions about what is relevant and what is not....

You see where this is going. We just don't know the answers. It could easily mean that there will be a significant increase in the need for archival storage systems to store VoIP-related sessions. There will also be a significant additional indexing expense because no VoIP sessions, of whatever kind, can be automatically indexed.

How will VoIP session indexes be integrated with indices of other archived digital information so that, logically, there is just one overall index for compliance and discovery needs?

VoIP session archival could be necessary to meet compliance and potential legal discovery needs. The storage-related costs of this could be substantial. The indexing costs of it could be large also.

Legislators haven't, I think, discovered VoIP yet. If regulations refer to the keeping of digital records then VoIP could already fall under the requirements of Sarbox etc.

Oops. If you are using VoIP or thinking of using VoIP and and are affected by compliance and discovery needs then take a second look. You might find you have to think about putting in another tape archive and employing an indexing person or two.