deleting emails and email archiving

The LegalTech conference early this year highlighted how the explosion of data poses new challenges for organisations; the digital universe exceeded 1.8 zettabytes (1.8 billion terabytes) in 2011 and it is expected to double every two years thereafter. The daunting fact is that one third of this information will need to be managed by business for compliance purposes (IDC’s 2011 Digital Universe Study).

Many information governance panels observed that “there is a direct relationship between large volumes of electronically stored information (ESI) and the costs of doing a discovery”, although this is certainly not a shock to those of us who are familiar with what email discovery entails.

All businesses need to determine how they will preserve documents, as they may be needed for litigation, or in the case of a dispute. In particular, organisations must address how they will retain electronic documents – especially email correspondence – as the risks associated with destroying those documents are becoming increasingly harsh.

It’s tempting to rid your mailbox of old emails because you feel that they’re irrelevant (eg. an email about last year’s Christmas party) or you’re trying to free up space (because your mailbox has limited space capacity).

While this “spring clean” of your inbox does make it easier to find things, it would be much easier to implement an archiving system that allows you to quickly search and retrieve what you’re looking for.

A business email archive will allow you to comply with external regulations and internal policies that have been put in place, so that every email is archived for contingency. Otherwise, you’d have to try and filter by date or keyword.

For example, if your email is stuck in a thread, it might be hard to remember what keyword to search for – especially if its title was as vague as “touching base” or “hello”. You could avoid this by drawing up and distributing an email etiquette guide for your organisation, which includes a rule to start a new thread when the subject changes or an important document is attached. However, it’s only half of the journey; the hardest part of having an email retention strategy is enforcing it, as organisations need to rely on their employees to not only understand, but comply with their rules.

In the case of an email discovery request or dispute, an accidental delete can whip an IT department into a frenzy, causing them to waste resources on scrambling to recover this email within the given time frame – only to realise that it’s nowhere to be found and your organisation must face the increasingly stringent consequences.

Don’t let your emails slip through the cracks

Without the appropriate email archiving system in place, it’s far too easy for many of your emails to slip through the cracks and become lost. In this case, an understandable human error could mean serious repercussions for employees and executives alike.

According to research conducted by GFI, the problem is the tendency for employees to expend IT resources when there’s an issue finding specific data. 69% of businesses surveyed claimed employees asked for help recovering lost or deleted emails. In turn, this reduced the time the department had to solve technical issues or implement new programs and policies that can improve business efficiency.

The cost of attempting to recover lost, deleted and corrupted emails is time, energy and money. For this reason businesses are beginning to do more to make sure such information isn’t easily removed from their servers.

Many SMBs in the US (88% of those surveyed) are turning to hosted email archiving to solve this problem. Under this model, employees are able to manage emails the way that best suits them. If they ever need to find an old email, they can just enter the email archive and find it independently, without help or hassle.

The deletion of emails poses a significant challenge for organisations due to its potential to cost the organisation much in the way of resources. Showing that your business has put a significant amount of effort into complying with email retention laws can greatly help your organisation’s case in court.

For more on this topic, download our whitepaper on compliance email archiving: