President George W. Bush famously said, “I’m not touching it. Period.” when it came to email communication. And why would he? He was the president after all. His office, however, did and amassed 200 million emails during his term. These emails need to be stored for both historical records and for security reasons but how will they achieve this?
It has been reported that the emails are to be released to library archivists who are to archive the trove of electronic communication. The issue with the 200million emails is that they can’t be put away without being checked for sensitive information. The emails must be swept for sensitive political communication and anything that could be considered an issue of national security.
The technical aspect of archiving this information is not a problem. To IT specialists, 200million emails is standard for a medium-sized business. To an archivist, however, it could be a nightmare. An email archive would take this amount of data in its stride.
But while the archiving of the information is a technical issue, the access and restrictions when it comes to national security is purely a policy issue. Who can access information and what information is visible is down to those who set out the guidelines – in this case judges, lawyers and other Presidents. Retrieving Presidential information is a grey area. No one wants to be misquoted, have something taken out of context or have an intern quoted as an official spokesperson.
Instead, this retrieval issue would also be best suited to a technical solution. eDiscovery processes can be streamlined and can work very efficiently making finding a specific piece of information in a sea of data a painless procedure. But when it comes to who can perform these searches and the type of emails that are restricted; this is when a solid email policy is needed.
Email archives work best when they are part of an email policy. In this way there is no confusion about which emails are kept, as it is all stored securely, but security protocols can be put in place and restrictions applied.
So while your company may not have any communication that could pose a risk to national security, this case does go to show the extent to which an email archive can be an invaluable asset.
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