Developing and managing e-mail archiving policies


IT faces a lot of challenges with e-mail archiving, but the real issue comes down to a difference of opinion, said George Goodall, senior research analyst at. "Striking the middle ground is very difficult and it makes nobody happy. That's the situation IT always finds itself in -- between the rock of corporate counsel and the hard place of user demands," he said.

End users want to keep everything forever because they use their inboxes as knowledge management systems and knowledge stores; meanwhile, legal counsel and senior management will typically advise IT to not keep anything and delete it immediately, he said.

Goodall's first piece of advice for IT managers developing e-mail archiving policies is to learn how to establish documents from records. "There's a real distinction between what a record is and what a document is, in that records are susceptible to retention schedules and documents aren't. When we talk about minimum retention periods, that applies to records, not documents," he said.

Second, focus on the overall retention schedule for all records because ideally, e-mail is going to be a subset of that, said Goodall. E-mail should be viewed as part of an overall process on retention schedules, he said, because e-mail itself is more like an envelope or a cover letter. "It isn't necessarily a document type or a record type. It's how you recognize those things internal to it," he said.

Third, focus on the three different motivators applicable to any archiving project -- regulation and litigation, IT efficiencies, and worker productivity -- and make sure you reconcile them, he said. "Those three factors really have to be balanced. Anytime you are working, let's say, towards worker efficiency but not recognizing IT efficiency or the legal implications, there is going to be trouble," he said.