Will you sink or swim in a sea of e-mail?

Archiving and storing e-mails uses up valuable resources, and with e-mail use set to spiral businesses need to plan and implement...

Archiving and storing e-mails uses up valuable resources, and with e-mail use set to spiral businesses need to plan and implement an e-mail strategy now or pay the penalty

Just as storage area networks were the vital storage issue in 2000, and virtualisation drove the storage debate in 2001, the hottest topic today is the management of e-mail - or the lack of it. This has been fuelled by recent news reports that it could be a target for future European legislation.

There are some alarming statistics regarding e-mail storage that IT managers may do well to consider.

It is a fact that 60% of a company's business-critical information is stored in the corporate messaging system, so protection of this data should be the main priority. Even in those companies where the data is protected, more than 80% of users cannot retrieve their archived messages without the help of the IT department - and this represents a drain on human resources.

Already overstretched IT departments are now having to spend an extra five to six hours a week recovering archive messages in addition to the average eight hours that is spent each week backing up the e-mail system.

Worse still, messages that are more than a year old can take up to a working day to recover, which is obviously not acceptable for business-critical information.

When was the last time you sorted your e-mails and discarded unwanted items? Think of all those e-mails with attachments of multiple-megabytes presentations, then multiply your e-mail database by all the people in your organisation. Staggering, isn't it?

With more than 90% of UK businesses using e-mail, it is estimated that more than 9.7 billion e-mails are sent daily and this is figure is forecast to rise to 35 billion e-mails a day in 2005. Incredibly, of this number only 17% are efficiently managed in a way to speed up rapid recall.

As the quantity of e-mails increases, it is clear that the cost of managing this data is going to accelerate and become a major issue for all businesses.

It is my opinion that in order to cope with the vast proliferation of e-mail, companies need to be prepared to look at cost, management and staff resource issues. I believe that we need to be realistic about the true cost of managing the vast amounts of storage dedicated to e-mail.

Initial outlay in terms of storage solutions is only a small fraction of the cost of actually managing this data. For example, the total cost of ownership in a Windows-type environment can grow to up to 40 times the purchase cost, once utilisation and management costs are taken into account. It only takes a moment to think about this, either start planning an e-mail strategy around automating the management and archiving activities or be prepared to take on up to 60% more staff.

So the time is now - not next week or the week after - to plan and implement an e-mail management strategy, and so prevent costly staff and resource wastage.

If we recognise that e-mail use will burgeon along with the importance of the data contained within, there should be no reason why this cannot be managed in a
cost- effective manner.

Derek Warry is strategic business manager at InTechnology

Read more on E-commerce technology