Could you be breaking the law by not archiving e-mails?

By Diana L. Spurgus, MBA, MCP, CITP, CPA, president of BSSI

It's 4:30 on Friday afternoon when you get the message that a key vendor will not be able to deliver what was promised on time, which will in turn cause YOU to miss a critical deadline for your most important client. Frustrated, you call the vendor, who instantly denies ever being told about the deadline. You know deadlines were discussed but can't find it in your original written agreement. You then turn to your e-mail only to be forced to dig through hundreds of messages to try and find the e-mail where you conveyed the importance of this project being delivered on time, but you can't find it because it was deleted.

Sound familiar? Or perhaps you've been in a similar situation where you've had to "dumpster dive" for old e-mail communications?  Think about it - almost all of your business communications and negotiations are performed via e-mail, making them important documents to keep for reference.  And since you send and receive hundreds if not thousands of e-mail messages annually, it just makes sense to have a simple and easy way to find old communication threads. But this isn't just a convenience issue, it's a legal one.

What Every Business Is Required By Law To Do

Some industries have strict federal guidelines on storing e-mail communications (financial institutions for example). But what most people don't realize is that ALL businesses must comply with the Federal Regulations on Civil Procedures, or FRCP. In this instance, ignorance is far from bliss - it could put you and your organization in serious legal trouble.

The amendments, which went into effect on December 1, 2006, mandate that companies be prepared for "electronic discovery."  Simply put, that means you must know where your data is and how to retrieve it. Failure to do so can lead to fines or loss of a lawsuit.

But I Have A Backup...That Means I'm Okay, Right?

Wrong! E-mail archiving is not the same as conventional e-mail backups. Backups only enable you to restore your e-mail servers to a previous point in time in the event of a disaster.  An e-mail archive (unlike a backup) is indexed and searchable, which means you can find e-mail communications based upon various criteria, such as date, subject, sender or receiver address, attached files, or any combination of the above.

Aside from the legal issues, e-mail archiving just makes sense. Murphy's law dictates that you'll need an e-mail the minute you permanently delete it; that's why it's smart to archive your inbox. Plus, it will make searching your inbox infinitely faster (not to mention easier) AND prevent your inbox from getting so overblown that it stops working due to file size limitations.

About the author:
Diana SpurgusDiana L. Spurgus, president, MBA, MCP, CITP, CPA of BSSI contributes computer/technology articles to our organization.  BSSI's goal is to "Make IT EZ for you and your organization!"  BSSI can be found at www.BSSI.biz or reached at ask@bssi.biz.

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