Global Email Trends: Addressing the Archiving, Retention and Compliance Challenge

David Ouellette, President of Vault Solutions LLC
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David Ouellette, President of Vault Solutions LLC

Across the globe, email, data retention, and compliance are three of the biggest business challenges facing many companies today. With continuously changing regulations, a more mobile workforce, increasing mergers and acquisitions, and the emergence of cloud-based solutions, how and where we manage our data has become a critical business decision.

Here are a few of the trends we've seen with customers worldwide related to these email storage, archiving, retention, and compliance challenges.

Email

Email, while it has made our lives much easier in terms of instant communication and the transfer of information, it has also given us an enormous amount of data to process, archive, retain, and delete. In today's world, policies of all kinds drive what we save, where we save it, and for how long. But how does a company determine which actions are the right ones to take for their data?

It used to be that the United States was the only country where companies were journaling all email for everyone - a ‘save it all’ approach stemming from countless rules and regulations across industries. At that time, other companies worldwide were doing mailbox archiving for the purpose of saving storage on their email servers. However, with the advent of much cheaper options like unlimited storage with Office 365 plans, we find fewer people doing mailbox archiving. Other countries are now subject to regulations that once only pertained to the US, which has led to a global shift to email journaling.

 ​Companies are looking at better ways to target the right email when they're doing compliance, and this is something that is ripe for a Machine Learning solution 

The challenge now is the length of time you need to keep this data archived, and how to set retention policies to protect your data and company–both proactively and reactively. And, more importantly, is how you actually implement those policies.

Retention

Determining just how long to keep emails can be an enormous challenge. From maintaining legal holds for items that are related to pending litigation to proactively expiring data that you are no longer obliged to hold onto is critical so that both unnecessary exposure and storage costs are reduced. One trend addressing these complicated issues is journaling as mentioned above, but the key is how it's done.

Journaling solutions, while an integral part of any data archiving process, can bring additional challenges if not incorporated correctly from the start. Many companies focus on getting the solution installed and running, pushing the policy creation piece down the road. This means that they haven't thought about how long to hold onto what data, or when to expire it, and have instead opted to utilize default settings until they dig into that process.

For many reasons, organizations have now realized that retention policies are critical, and are working with their legal teams, CIOs, and others to come to agreement on a strategy for email retention and expiration. Once determined, this typically requires several adjustments to how they originally configured their hardware and software retention settings. It is often a lengthy and costly project to get to the point where a company can finally start expiring old data.

Compliance

Government regulations, company policies, and varying legal holds all require compliance from an organization. Compliance includes storage, archiving, and surveillance—a key component in being able to identify relevant data. Keyword searches and random sampling are no longer adequate in finding applicable emails as regulatory agencies are pressing for more in-depth sampling techniques to more accurately target messages pertaining to an issue or policy.

Companies are looking at better ways to target the right email when they're doing compliance, and this is something that is ripe for a Machine Learning solution.  As we move forward and machine learning becomes more prevalent—take the Google Self-Driving Car Project, or Microsoft's 'Hold old do I look' experiment as examples - there is no reason why we can't take existing search and retrieval technologies and automate the process by training our machines to seek the relevant data for compliance. Some companies, such as Veritas, Catelas, and Neurensic have already announced and deployed compliance products that use Machine Learning.

As data continues to grow, and organizations are increasingly compelled to be in compliance, these global trends centered on managing email storage, archiving, retention, and retrieval will become the norm. Utilizing unlimited cloud storage plans, instituting official email retention policies, and implementing more effective sampling techniques are just a few measures necessary to ease the archiving, retention, and compliance challenges.

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