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Issue Date: May 2004 (es)

Managing e-mail to avoid liability and ensure compliance

1 May 2004

E-mail is increasingly becoming an essential business tool - and many mission critical transactions are conducted via this communication channel. There is a greater reliance on electronic communication today and some may argue that there is no substitute for e-mail.
IDC predicts that by 2005, more than 35 billion e-mails will be sent daily around the globe - increasing from approximately 10 billion in 2000. Grant Morgan, storage business unit manager at Dimension Data, asks the question: "In an effort to ensure compliance, how does a company effectively manage and store this vast amount of e-mail - also taking into account corporate governance requirements?"
In addition to the increase in the number of e-mails, the average message size has also increased by 192% since 2000 and Gartner estimates that enterprise mailbox volumes are growing at an alarming rate of 40% annually. "Storing this massive amount of e-mail is a key concern for organisations and there are additional issues such as the administrative impact of e-mail storage and compliance requirements that need to be considered," says Morgan.
Gartner Dataquest predicts that e-mail archiving is one of the fastest growing areas of the information technology industry. Early e-mail systems were not designed to cater for the sheer volume and size (including attachments) of today's e-mails. E-mail downtime is said to have the greatest impact on employee productivity as it affects a greater number of users than any other application.
The administrative overheads that are associated with the management of e-mail is an additional burden for organisations. It is estimated that the average e-mail user devotes two and a half hours per week to maintain his or her mailbox to ensure that limits are not exceeded. E-mail management does not only impact e-mail users, but also IT administrators. The Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) estimates that administrators spend 8 to 12 hours per week on e-mail backup and archiving. "It is not rocket science to calculate the costs associated with time spent managing e-mail - for both users and administrators," says Morgan.
The Electronic Communications and Transactions (ECT) Act No. 25 of 2002 created a new driver for organisations to have e-mail records readily available should these be required in the context of legal proceedings. It elevates electronic messages (including e-mail) to the same status as an original paper document. The ECT Act provides guidelines for the management of electronic communication to maintain and prove the integrity thereof. It provides specific guidelines in terms of aspects such as writings, electronic signatures, agreements and the retention and production of electronic documents. Adequate electronic document management can assist organisations to have easy access to e-mail records in the context of legal proceedings.
"Over the past few years there have been a number of high profile and widely publicised corporate scandals in the United States. The fact that e-mail was used in a number of the trials placed further pressure on companies across the globe to re-evaluate their current policies related to e-mail record management," says Morgan. E-mail archiving has become an aspect of particular importance on the corporate agenda. Organisations are taking note of the importance of adequate e-mail storage in an effort to avoid the risks of non-compliance.
Taking past cases of corporate misconduct into account, the King II Report on Corporate Governance stipulates that company directors have a responsibility to ensure that effective internal control measures are adhered to with regard to information technology. "Often the management of electronic records - in particular e-mail - is seen as the responsibility of the IT and legal departments. It does, however, concern every department in the organisation as non-compliance can result in heavy penalties for directors and board members, which may threaten the organisation's survival," says Morgan.
E-mail archiving is, however, not only an issue for large organisations. There is a growing demand for small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) to account for electronic communication, however, few have the resources to address data management adequately. Such businesses often only address the backup of critical files and fail to account for electronic record keeping. SMEs are increasingly able to implement e-mail storage solutions as cost barriers are being reduced. Adopting an e-mail archiving solution should enable SMEs to meet compliance requirements.
"Addressing the need for e-mail storage is not simply a question of acquiring the latest and greatest technology. When examining e-mail storage options companies need to weigh the cost and risks of different archiving options and processes to meet the growing demand for compliance," concludes Morgan.
For more information contact Grant Morgan, Dimension Data, 011 575 0000.

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