A digital archive is a repository of information that ensures the longevity, integrity, and accessibility of data to fulfil business, legal, and regulatory retention requirements.
Archiving helps organizations deal with digital preservation challenges such as file format obsolescence, ensure regulatory compliance and manage retention, make inactive records easy to retrieve by authorized users, and reduce the time and cost of maintaining obsolete systems only for their data by extracting and archiving the information.
So, what is Email archiving?
Email archiving is the process of capturing, preserving, protecting, and making easily searchable all inbound and outbound email messages - including attachments and metadata - to and from a given individual or organization so they can be accessed at a later date.
Enterprises archive email for regulatory purposes, external and internal audits, readiness for eDiscovery, and corporate memory.
The benefits of email archiving include the ability to enforce consistent retention, adherence to regulations and legal holds to prove what happened and when, who said what, etc. in case of audits and litigation, reduced storage and eDiscovery costs, streamlined audit and eDiscovery response, and preservation of the intellectual property contained in business e-mails and attachments.
The need for email archiving is increasing due to the regulations companies must comply with, especially in the financial services industry (SOX, Graham-Leach-Bliley Act Section 6801, FINRA 11-39, SEC Rule 17a-4, etc.). In the past emails were either deleted due to storage costs resulting in non-compliance or stored indefinitely on a server that could be vulnerable to a breach (such as with the Sony e-mail hack). Decreasing storage prices, the move toward digital transformation, and e-mail server security risks have made e-mail archiving more affordable, easier, and more necessary than ever before.
Email archiving is usually driven from the perspective of mitigating risk.
However, getting value from the use of analytics on the knowledge and data contained in e-mails is gaining traction. Information from e-mails can be re-purposed in ways that may not be obvious such as analyzing communication patterns, email marketing analysis (determine which messages get the best responses, who to target, etc.) to know then boost your ROI, catching communication policy violations, and discovering employee behavioral changes that could signal job dissatisfaction.
Why archive your emails?
Sell v. Country Life Insurance Company, 2016 WL 3179461 (D. Ariz. June 1, 2016): In this lawsuit the court found that Country Life Insurance made minimal efforts to retain and preserve important emails concerning discussions among claims analysts about the denial of an insurance claim. The insurer retained emails on the Microsoft Exchange server for a limited time. When it reached its storage capacity, the server would overwrite emails. Employees were instructed to clear out their email boxes three or four times a year to prevent filling up the exchange server. If employees wanted to save e-mails they would have to manually choose them for retention and add them to the correct claim file. The company did archive relevant emails after a legal hold was issued, but the court decided this preservation effort was too little, too late as most emails had either been overwritten by the server or were destroyed during company mandated e-mail purges. The court ruled that the emails should have been preserved nearly two years before the lawsuit was filed.
GN Netcom, Inc. vs. Plantronics, Inc. C.A. No. 12-1318-LPS: Although this lawsuit was filed in 2012, it wasn’t until July 2016 that a federal judge levied $3 million in punitive sanctions on Plantronics for destroying thousands of emails and failing to take sufficient steps to recover them for the case. It was discovered that a company Vice President deleted many of his own emails and told his team to do the same. While deletions were originally discovered by Plantronics’ own counsel, the extent of the destruction was not made clear to GN Netcom. Plantronics also will have to pay the bill for GN Netcom’s 18-month investigation into the deleted emails. There is no way to recover all the e-mails and know what they contained so if the case goes to trial the judge will tell the jury to consider the destroyed emails during deliberations.
Scottrade, Inc.: In November 2015, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) fined Scottrade for $2.6 million for failing to retain a large number of securities-related electronic records in the required format and for failing to retain certain categories of outgoing emails. FINRA found that the firm failed to save more than 168 million outgoing emails. These emails were generated automatically by Scottrade 's internal systems or by third-party vendors acting on the firm's behalf, and included items such as margin call notices, address change notifications, and failed password attempt notifications.
Digital Archiving Services
At today's enterprises, there should be a corporate email policy, including retention and deletion. Archiving email should be part of an overall enterprise archive service. Digital preservation of electronic records and messages requiring long term retention includes but goes beyond just email. There must also be an appropriate IT infrastructure in place with the proper storage capacity and ability to grow.
Remember, not all emails need to be archived, only official records and any required for legal holds. Digital preservation and retention is like food preservation. Different types may have different storage needs and time periods for keeping, but, in all instances, it's important to make sure preservation is a priority.