Companies Face Daunting Task of Managing E-mail

Many of the demands that Sarbanes-Oxley compliance has placed on accounting firms have developed into commercial opportunities for other industries. One of those is software providers, particularly when it comes to the SOX requirement to save electronic communications.


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A host of software companies are marketing active e-mail archiving products which enable firms not only to save e-mails but also to keep them on hand for timely retrieval as described by the law.

As compliance deadlines near, best practices are starting to emerge, writes Mike Gundling in Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance Journal. “Since e-mail has become the de facto method of business communication and the most critical source of information for almost every large business, the management of e-mail is a fundamental element of SOX compliance,” writes Gundling, vice president of product management for iLumin Software Services, Inc.

Many software companies have published market survey results that suggest the accounting industry is overwhelmed with the requirement to store e-mail. Gundling said many firms use backup software and store daily e-mails on magnetic tape to comply with SOX. However, Gundling and other software vendors point out that this method amounts to backup, not archiving. The difference is, active archiving allows quick searches and retrieval and overall e-mail management.

Prior to Sarbanes-Oxley, software companies paved ground in this area after the Securities and Exchange Commission required financial institutions to retain e-mail exchanges.

Before putting an active archiving system in place, a firm should adopt an information management policy, Gundling writes. More than 30 percent of 500 companies in a survey sample lacked “comprehensive, enforceable” policies on e-mail use, according to the results of a poll by Sendmail Inc. and Osterman Research.

This applies not only to SOX compliance, but security, where a host of new software products have emerged for the financial services industry, according to the Business Times of San Francisco. These include Workshare Inc., a rival of Adobe Systems, which is experiencing explosive growth due to demand for e-mail security. This company offers a solution that alerts employees they are about to send classified or otherwise sensitive information.

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