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UK users say data sprawl and compliance drive need for email archiving

Antony Adshead, UK bureau chief, storage
UK users say email archiving technology purchases are being driven by increasing email data volumes and the need to meet legal compliance standards. This means that simply archiving email to backups is no longer acceptable, according to many attendees at the Storage Decisions UK Email and File Archiving Seminar held at the Hilton London Metropole this week.

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Mark Allen, systems administrator at The Institute of Cancer Research in London, said reducing the volume of emails was a key driver for investigating email archiving. "We're moving from Novell GroupWise to Microsoft Exchange, and we have far too much data and a rapidly expanding backup window," he said. "If there's anything we can do to reduce that we will -- especially on the email side -- because that's about 25% of our backup."

Allen's thoughts were echoed by Nitin Negi, a London-based senior systems analyst at BT. "Data volume is the main challenge for us as this affects backup duration and size, as well as disaster recovery," Negi said.

Growing data volumes and compliance strain IT shops

For some seminar attendees a key challenge of email is the combination of ballooning data volume and compliance.

For example, Julian Barnett, storage administrator at London-based Standard Chartered Bank, has to regularly oversee the recovery of single emails from backups -- requests that have strained his IT shop to the limits, given the time it takes to meet his compliance requirements. "The main [email archiving] driver for us is the amount of time it takes to get emails back," Barnett explained. "We currently do this from backups on disk and sometimes tape. We are now obliged by the regulatory authorities to have searchable archives for email."

For others, the problem is the growing number of .pst files saved locally on users' machines. This becomes a compliance challenge because IT is not able to locate email that might have to be retained for legal reasons, either because they do not know where it is or it has been deleted by the user.

"We don't have an email archiving policy or even any quotas in place at the moment," said Yvette Jewell, a support analyst at the Advertising Standards Authority in London. "People manage their email by exporting their .pst files to their local hard drive."

Ankur Madaan, systems engineer at The News International added: "We have lots of local, scattered islands of storage around our environment that we want to consolidate in the next year. When we do that, we want to have tiered storage so we can move data that is not used very often to lower cost media." That's where email archiving enters the picture, Madaan said. "This is where our need for archiving -- of everything, not just email -- comes from," he said. "And the chief objective is lower cost of ownership of storage."

Economics of email archiving

Seminar keynote speaker Lee Benjamin, who runs ExchangeGuy Consulting Services, said he expected to see a significant uptick in the adoption of email archiving despite the current difficult economic circumstances.

"[This] is a tough year and it's hard to get money for projects," Benjamin acknowledged. "But when you look at the cost of doing nothing, and the cost of exposure to risk and the potential cost savings in terms of storage and not having to mount backup tapes again and again, this is one of the projects that can actually happen in 2009."

Benjamin also pointed toward a new feature in Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 that will deal with the issue of users saving .pst files locally on their hard drives. Benjamin is among the many analysts predicting that the new Exchange feature will increase the use of email archiving on a single-user level.

"Exchange 2010 introduces a personal archive feature which is an evolution of the overflow of .pst files that we have on the network today," Benjamin explained. "It will ingest them back into Exchange as a personal mailbox that lives in the same mail store as the primary mailbox, and for solving that particular dilemma the personal archive will be very helpful," he added. "Those who are looking at larger issues of compliance archiving or archiving for the whole organisation will probably look at a business-level archive solution, however."


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