Email archiving and the dilemma this presents for archive administrators

Records managers face a very difficult dilemma today and frankly, I don’t think there is another solution, or a panacea. I think a company, or a brilliant record manager, will find a solution in the coming years and become the industry hero. Until then, we’ll continue to see articles like this that discuss the importance of the silver bullet solution for email archiving and record management.

In case you haven’t understood what I’m talking about, here’s the problem: After the federal rules of civil procedure were amended with ESI or electronically stored information on December 1, 2006, the discovery of email messages became a reality and a nightmare for companies. And here’s the problem: companies were not prepared for this amendment, and even 15 months later, many companies are struggling to decide how to marry records retention records with email content.

Some of the solutions proposed so far include, but are not limited to:

  1. Save all email Courts love this solution because it can be easily demonstrated that the company is violating its own records retention schedule;
  2. Buy an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solution and write complicated formulas for matching words and phrases with words and phrases in the archive retention schedule. Currently, according to recent studies, this “automated” solution has only a 78% success rate. Imagine telling your management that you can solve your email archiving problem with an error rate of only 22%. I now hear breathing;
  3. Set up an email folder structure system in the current email system (for example, Outlook or GroupWise) and ask employees to drag each email to the appropriate folder based on the contents of the record retention schedule. Yikes. Studies have shown that employees can rebel and find alternative ways to write email if they need to drag each email into separate folders every day based on a record retention schedule that covers all identified record classes in your company includes.
  4. Use a combination of items 2 and 3 up here. At the moment, this is the solution most recommended by ECM suppliers.

Large companies send and receive millions of emails every day. Even small businesses receive an overwhelming number of emails every day. A typical email message can consist of a few sentences to several pages and, optionally, one or more attachments. In terms of archive management, let’s explain what an email message is: is this the body of the email? The subject line? The distribution? The attachments? The metadata? Well, the answer is “YES” to all parts of an email. Now the question becomes: “What now?” I am with you. I honestly can’t see a good solution. While I think it’s possible to create complicated formulas to improve the 22% error rate, there won’t be a good way to prove it somehow.

To set a record retention period for an email, the Records Manager must take their authorized record retention schedule (and yes, 59% of companies don’t even have a retention schedule) and figure out a way to relate content to all sharing an email message. I can think of two solutions to this dilemma, both of which are ridiculous:

  1. The company gives the Records Manager unlimited money and staff to review every email (you understand why this won’t happen) or
  2. The company communicates a mandate that email messages should not be used as a storage device, but as a means of communication. Of course, workers would rebel against this solution.


The dilemma of setting up records to keep records for every email still exists, and there is no solution on the horizon that makes sense for employees and for business results. Don’t get me wrong: there are companies that will try to use an automated solution and there will be others that will try to use the drag and drop methods, but these methods are unlikely to succeed in the long run. Companies are likely to give up when workers revolt and training costs go in vain.

So what should Records Managers do?

Archive administrators should continue to gather as much knowledge as possible about email archiving and archive retention systems. Record managers should listen to webinars, attend workshops and conferences and keep up to date with emerging technologies and companies in ECM and email archiving. Records Managers must be ready when a solution is found.

Source by Stephen Page