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News

Organisational e-mail search and retrieval

InfoSecurity Europe : 26 January, 2009  (Technical Article)
Paul Thackeray of Barracuda Networks looks at the subject of corporate e-mail archiving and how to overcome the problems of storage and retrieval
Imagine, for a moment, that the delete button on the email client of all of your employees was permanently disabled. This would mean that your email users would be forced to save and organize their email into various folders within the email client, and then when their email file reached quota, your IT team would have to move all the old email into large PST files or other forms of backup. This now means that you have email scattered all over the network in any number of stores. Now imagine that your organisation is implicated in a lawsuit and the attorneys for the plaintiff have issued warrants for all of your electronic records, including email, related to the lawsuit. How do you access those emails?

Well the good news in this scenario is that you at least have all of the email. Often businesses operate under the assumption that if there is no record of the topic in question, then they cannot be held responsible. This is simply not true. Businesses that delete email, even as part of standard business practice, but that have no way of retrieving it in the future, can still be held liable for the information contained within the deleted email. Simply having all of the email, however, is only half the battle. Companies must also have mechanisms in place to quickly search and retrieve the emails in question

While the suggestion that a disabled delete key may seem like an extreme scenario, the concept behind it is important: Business email should not be deleted until the organization has some way to archive and, more importantly, retrieve email.

Organisations in heavily regulated industries, such as the financial, government and healthcare industries were among the first to put policies and solutions in place in order to satisfy regulatory standards for their specific markets. But all organisations, no matter what vertical, need to very carefully assess what risks they face by not saving email.

It is an unfortunate fact that most organisations will at some point in the course of normal operations be implicated in lawsuits. Litigation discovery, or e-discovery, involves all parties in a lawsuit and requires that all data or information relevant to the lawsuit be provided as requested by the court of law. The cost of finding and producing such information can often outweigh the actual damages claimed in the lawsuit itself. This is most often the case for companies that are not using an email archiving solution.

Message archiving solutions should have the ability to full index all email to enable simple search and retrieval of emails containing specific key words in an e-discovery request as well as for corporate policy control. Retention policies are also a key factor when determining which solution fits the needs of the organisation; archiving solutions should have the storage capacity to keep email records for long periods of time in order to satisfy regulatory compliance standards. All functionality should be organised via a simple user interface that is easy for the administrator to use, but that also captures a high-level glimpse into the performance of the message archiving solution that can be easily demonstrated to management or legal counsel.

The bottom line: there is no single reason for implementing an archiving solution. But one thing is for certain, email must be retained by every organisation that relies upon it as one of its main business communication channels. Deploying an easy-to-use solution will save a lot of time and resources for the organisation in the long run. Further, it is a much simpler, and more practical solution than disabling the delete key on the email client.

Barracuda Networks is exhibiting at Infosecurity Europe 2009, the No. 1 industry event in Europe held on 28th - 30th April in its new venue Earl's Court, London. The event provides an unrivalled free education programme, exhibitors showcasing new and emerging technologies and offering practical and professional expertise.
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