A million e-mails a day in a global business? It's not impossible. How do you, how should you back them up or archive them? With Morgan Stanley near to being fined a cool and humungous $15 million for not being able to produce e-mails after a legal discovery request in the USA this question has being thrown into high prominence.

There are now three reasons to preserve e-mails in an organised way: lost mail restoration; compliance; and legal discovery.

We backup e-mails so as to restore ones that have been inadvertently lost. The backups are organised as files. dot PST files, so that restores can be carried out on a per-user basis. That's the commonest and traditional way of restoring files and folders. It's done per user and per time unit. The backup files are held either on disk in the newer disk-to-disk backup systems or on tape where they may be both near-term or long-term archives.

E-mails are having to be stored in particular ways where they cover topics that are the subject of compliance regulations a business is subject too. This is becoming endemic in the financial and health sectors and spreading elsewhere too - the Sarbox effect

Legal discovery tends to be based on a request to produce all documents relating to a particular person, department or subject. It's open-ended but we can be certain that it is far from being restricted to being all documents relating simply to a person.

Let's get back to our global enterprise. It's sending a million e-mails a day. It receives a legal discovery request in the USA to produce all documents relating to product Z52 in the last two years.

Pandora's box
Just think about it. The documents could comprise Word documents, spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, e-mails, PDF files, instant messages, even VOIP phone calls these days. This is a horrendous, nightmare scenario. If we just look at e-mails the total searchable set of e-mails could easily exceed half a billion messages.

But they are not in one place. They are in thousands of separate dot PST files in thousands of different backup entities. They could be stored across hundreds of different tape cartridges, thousands possibly, with no indexing system to identify their e-mail contents.

What do you index anyway? You're indexing so as to satisfy legal discovery requests. What could those requests be about? Anything. Yes, that's right, anything your business is involved in. So the indexing has to be complete. Every person, every object, every transaction, every location, every policy.... every single thing your business' e-mails deal with has to be indexed so that all the e-mails dealing with, for example, door hinge replacements in company washrooms, can be located and retrieved in case some lawyer slaps a legal discovery notice on you about the topic.

It means that your e-mail archiving system has to be vetted by your company lawyers to see if it is sufficient.

Some email archive products
Is this notion bunkum? Not according to Zantaz which claims to be ' the global leader in Information Retention and Discovery Management (IRDM) solutions. Indeed IDC supports this claim. It has just announced 'the integration of its industry-leading email/file archiving capabilities with its litigation support and electronic discovery technologies in a complete single-vendor solution. Using Zantaz Digital Safe in conjunction with Zantaz Introspect litigation support, Zantaz customers benefit from fast, easy collection and access to emails and files, reduced risk of lost or compromised data and electronic data discovery (EDD) cost savings of more than 50 percent.'

Zantaz says that, according to the Fulbright and Jaworski law firm, U.S. corporations spend, on average, $8 million annually on litigation cases. Many of these involve the recovery of digital information including emails. Zantaz Digital Safe is a compliant, on-demand email and file archiving solution allowing companies to easily move archived data into Zantaz Introspect for litigation purposes.

Here is what Zantaz says about how these products can be used: 'When a company’s legal department receives a request to turn over emails, they typically rely on the IT division to collect data from various mailboxes, network drives, laptops, hard drives and other devices, which can be time-consuming and costly. This process previously required multiple vendors to search and collect the requested data, often resulting in disparate or proprietary file formats. Zantaz Digital Safe automatically collects these emails and files as they are created, making it easy for the IT department to search and retrieve email, as well as handle multiple discovery requests internally, without having to manage vendors or worry about corruption in the discovered data. Users can quickly and easily access archived records, determine the scope of the data request for negotiation with opposing counsel, and then send the agreed-upon data directly into Zantaz Introspect.'

Zantaz uses an anxiety sell: 'Nearly 40 percent of organizations have been ordered by a court or regulatory body to produce employee email, according to Osterman Research. Large corporations, subject to SEC regulations, have faced multi-million dollar fines after failing to produce requested emails in a “timely manner,” currently interpreted as 36 to 72 hours.'

Storage Resource Management
Is IRDM an aspect of storage resource management (SRM)? Should it be? Is it an aspect of Information LIfecycle Management (ILM)? Should it be? Should there be a specific document and e-mail archive for legal discovery and a separate document and e-mail backup/archive system? Ideally there should be a single archive. Ideally it should be integrated into a business' ILM strategy and products. That requires the archiving, SRM and ILM incumbents and suppliers to take IRDM requirements onboard and add them to their products. This will take a year or two to accomplish at least.

Mimosa Systems claims to have unified the needs of archiving, data protection, disaster recovery, and storage management in a single product; NearPoint. This is storage management just for e-mail, not general SRM.

Arun Taneja, founder and consulting analyst of his Taneja Group, has said: "Mimosa moved the bar much higher when they introduced NearPoint to the market. NearPoint’s combined power to manage the three key Exchange challenges of archiving, recovery and storage management is possible because Mimosa took a new approach to the solution architecture. It is a major advancement in the industry, one that many enterprises have been waiting for.”

Arun is always good for copy.

C2C Systems also produces e-mail archiving products.

The Morgan Stanley case
Morgan Stanley has proposed paying a record $15 million to settle a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission probe into its failure to preserve e-mails.

Morgan Stanley was penalized by a Florida judge last year for failing to turn over e-mails to lawyers for billionaire financier Ronald Perelman. Also, in 2002, the SEC faulted Morgan Stanley and four other securities firms for destroying e- mails and backup tapes.

An analysis demanded by the SEC showed that Morgan Stanley had 'overwritten' 10 percent of its e-mail backup tapes after January 2001. The company's lawyers also 'knew as of June 7, 2004, that almost a third of the restored backup tapes didn't contain e-mail, implying that they may have been recycled in violation' of the SEC's 2002 order.

Morgan Stanley's problems could stem from its own deletion of e-mails against SEC instructions rather than inadequate retention procedures per se. We shouldn't conclude that inadequate e-mail retention on its own would warrant a $15 million fine.

Is every business now at risk? Ask your lawyer
However, what we can conclude is that IT departments now have a new and important internal client - the business' legal department. There should be an e-mail and document archiving policy and procedure and the best-placed person to assess whether it is sufficient is the company's head lawyer.

To preserve an IT department's budget it's probably a really great idea to charge the legal department for IT services provided to it, if you can. That way you won't have to find the tens of thousands of pounds or dollars or more needed to buy the new software and hardware you will most probably have to buy from within the existing IT budget.

Welcome to the e-mail archiving suppliers' very own dot com boom.

Techworld has just posted this news story: Nearly half European IT managers don't archive e-mail!