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Outsourced Email Archiving Solution Addresses Regulatory Challenges, Storage Issues, and Productivity

It’s no wonder that Storage magazine listed email archiving–a technology allowing email content to be indexed and stored in a searchable repository–as one of the hottest technologies*, for it solves several corporate challenges. In addition to increasing productivity and decreasing the necessary storage for emails and attachments, for example, an effective archiving solution enables enterprises to ensure compliance with the SEC, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and other regulations that stipulate a company must retain email for a certain period of time.

Blackmont Capital Inc., an independent investment management firm in Toronto, Canada, began looking at email archiving solutions because of new regulations impacting its industry. The firm manages about 45,000 emails per day.

Brian Erdelyi, Blackmont’s Information Security Officer, Technology Group, recalls an example of email challenges around litigation discovery, which he encountered two years ago at another company prior to joining Blackmont Capital. “In response to a subpoena, I dealt with message recovery problems,” he explains. “The police needed messages for an entire year, involving 12 people. Unfortunately, the way the messages were stored, every user was on a different mail server. So we had to restore twelve servers 12 times and generate the files. It took us six months to gather all the data.”

All Archiving Solutions are not the Same

Erdelyi fast-forwards to the present, where Blackmont Capital has outsourced its email archiving to Fortiva. “If I were to encounter a similar situation today, I can gather the information we need in just a day or two because Fortiva’s search capabilities are so much better and the way emails are stored makes the data much more accessible. Not only that, but its technology allows me to be very narrow in my focus on what I’m searching for,” says Erdelyi.

A cross-functional team at Blackmont, including representation from legal, compliance, human resources, operations, and IT, evaluated various email archiving solutions and liked Fortiva’s features and user-friendliness. Even so, Erdelyi says the major reason for the selection was the provider’s experience and knowledge in the investment industry and its understanding of the industry’s specific requirements from a regulatory perspective.

One of the solution’s differences resolves the weaknesses of the usual type of back-up tool for archiving. The scenario: A company backs up mailboxes at midnight. A user receives an email from someone, then deletes it from the inbox and the “deleted items.” At midnight when the back-up runs, there is no longer any record of that email. Because Fortiva uses the journaling function of Exchange, it captures all messages. “Nobody can manipulate, modify, or delete them,” states Erdelyi. “When a message is sent or received, Fortiva makes and stores a copy of it.”

As an investment firm, Blackmont is regulated by the Investment Dealers Association of Canada as well as the National Association of Security Dealers in the United States. Each has email archival requirements; some include supervision. Erdelyi points out that the Fortiva solution has the capability to randomly sample messages for review. It also allows a targeted sampling of messages including certain keywords–like guarantee. For example, Blackmont Capital would not want one of its advisors to guarantee returns on a particular investment.

One of the other aspects appealing to Blackmont’s security team is the fact that the solution encrypts the emails before they leave Blackmont. “You hear stories of people losing a hard drive or tapes in transit,” says Erdelyi. “With this solution, the data is already encrypted while in transit to Fortiva and while it’s stored there. Even if a tape is lost, we’re the only ones who have access to the encryption key.”

In addition, some archiving solutions are more like a safety deposit box with a window in it; this allows the provider to see inside the box in order to organize the customer’s emails or perform indexing tasks. With Fortiva, the customer has the only key to decrypt the documents stored; it uses other technology for indexing.

Erdelyi cites another valuable functionality. Two important forms of communication at Blackmont–Instant Messages and emails sent and received from Blackberry devices–are also integrated with the Fortiva solution. “Reuters Messaging, our IM platform, provides a gateway to Microsoft and AOL’s public IM networks. This enables our Instant Messages to be archived and supervised at Fortiva just like email, since they fall within scope of the same regulatory requirements,” he says.

A “Gotcha”

Blackmont started migrating users from its previous back-up solution to the Fortiva solution. One of its functionalities grants end users the right to search all their past emails, with no risk of their being able to search anyone else’s messages. However, Blackmont initially chose not to include this functionality. “We were archiving for regulatory/compliance purposes, and for our legal department and me to be able to search and recover emails. For that, the end users didn’t need access,” says Erdelyi.

This strategy, however, created a subsequent problem. The firm upgraded to Exchange and imposed mailbox quotas in connection with the upgrade, just before implementing Fortiva. In just a couple of months, users reached their quotas and began exporting emails to a PST file, which was then stored on their computers or on the network. So there were two copies of the emails at Blackmont, consuming more and more storage space, plus the copies at Fortiva. “Effectively, users just moved email around and didn’t delete anything,” says Erdelyi.

The Fortiva solution includes a Google-like capability for searching archived email, which increases users’ productivity. Blackmont is now rolling out the ability for selected users to access their personal email archive in Fortiva. Once successful, there will be a company-wide deployment.

Study Reveals Email Can Cause Loss of Productivity

Businesses looking to improve productivity should definitely look at email. Earlier, on behalf of Fortiva, Harris InteractiveÆ conducted a survey examining the email habits of more than 1,000 individuals using email at work. The survey revealed:

  • 28 percent of respondents acknowledge that the volume of email they receive causes them to fall behind in their work
  • 59 percent of respondents admit to wasting a lot of time searching for lost email
  • 31 percent admit to having to rewrite or reconstruct lost emails

These statistics point to a growing problem for businesses. Paul Chen, CEO of Fortiva, says, “Email has arguably been the greatest productivity tool for businesses over the past decade, but it brings with it a number of challenges.”

The study, for example, revealed that, although they would like to keep important emails indefinitely, 27 percent of respondents have reached or exceeded the amount of storage space allowed for email at work.

“Email storage, because of attachments, is growing at exponential rates,” Chen continues. “At some point, companies have to say it doesn’t make sense to store all the email on the email server, and they should move it somewhere else less expensive and easier to manage.”

Storage limitations also lead to practices that could jeopardize information security. Because there are mobile workers and telecommuters working from home offices at any time of day in North America, they need access to email information at any time and anywhere. Without the capability to go to their email quickly and search it, productivity suffers.

“Most employees have become ingenious in trying to get around problems,” says Chen, “so they actually take emails from the server and copy them to their own laptop or home computer.” These remain in some sort of file format that the end users can access anytime they want to without an Internet connection. Resultantly, productivity improves for the individual users; but the problem from the company perspective is that it now has an email sitting on an email server and the same email sitting in a PC file, client network, laptop, desktop, or file server somewhere. Storage doubles.

Storage limitations can also invite legal dilemmas. When a company involved in litigation goes into an electronic discovery process, it’s often very difficult to determine which email to track down if there are multiple copies everywhere. Industry best practice is to centralize emails in a single place (giving access to mobile users) and to have a retention schedule for emails, addressing proper destruction.

Buy or Build

Some of the benefits of outsourcing versus building an in-house solution include lower risk, faster implementation, and capital avoidance. Total cost of ownership decreases with an outsourced solution. Economies of scale occur as the provider passes on the savings because of serving so many customers.

Chen of Fortiva adds, “Buyers may think they only need to buy software and hardware for an in-house process and then get all the benefits. But, they don’t realize the solution must include managing legacy data/information–and it could be for three to seven years. That is actually quite expensive and not something a typical IT department has expertise around.”

In less than half a day, in the case of Blackmont and Fortiva, the appliances were plugged into Blackmont’s network, and the solution was up and running and archiving Blackmont’s emails. Moreover, the solution is consistent with SEC guidelines, other regulations, and best practices in legal discovery–something most companies could not easily accomplish in house, let alone cost-effectively.


Lessons from Outsourcing Journal:

  • Government regulations now require that companies retain email for a certain period of time; but it is a costly practice to store and adequately manage emails on in-house servers.
  • Storage needs double when mobile workers are allowed to download their email files to laptops or other devices for accessibility when not in the office; an outsourcing provider’s best practices will ensure there are not multiple copies that create problems in potential litigation and will have a retention and destruction schedule.
  • When selecting an outsourced email archiving solution, choose one that has effective search capabilities, stores the data so it is easily accessible, stores copies of all emails when sent or received so no one can manipulate or delete them, archives Instant Messages and messages sent and received from Blackberry devices, and encrypts the data during transit as well as storage.

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