Businesses across the world are being tested to their technological limits as they try to deal with daunting deluges of data. Information is arriving left, right and centre, so firms must be prepared if they're to capitalise on the opportunities it presents. Mining insight is usually the end goal, but that's impossible to achieve without sufficient storage.
For most organisations, email is the biggest driver of these rapidly growing storage requirements. Archiving - the act of preserving and indexing email messages - therefore, is crucial for any firm that wants to continue operating with real efficiency.
According to Californian market research firm The Radicati Group, 100.5 billion emails were sent by businesses worldwide in 2013. In 2014 this is set to grow by seven per cent. This is only the beginning too; by 2017, the same analysts expect the figure to reach 132.1 billion. So while the popularity of email amongst consumers continues to fall in the face of ultra-convenient and mobile-friendly instant messaging services, this comparatively old method of electronic communication is thriving in the workplace.
Deleting every one of these messages once they've been read would no doubt be a quick way to free up space on servers and hard drives which may already be struggling under the weight of other, seemingly more critical data. Doing so, however, is out of the question. Much in the same way that yesteryear's businesses would be required to retain paper documents, firms of today must archive emails for a number of reasons.
As the role of data in corporate life increases in importance, so too does the legislation surrounding it. As well as having to handle such huge amounts of information for their own practical benefit, firms must do it in a way that ensures they abide by stringent regulations. The Data Protection Act 1998 and the Freedom of Information Act 2000 are obvious examples, but organisations should also consider the standards laid out by the non-profit BSI Group (the British Standards Institution).
While some of the related legislation calls for messages to be properly indexed for the sake of quick and easy access, other parts specifically require firms to permanently discard messages - especially those which contain the personal information of customers. This means that archiving isn't as simple as just finding a cost-effective place to store everything.
With experts from the Ponemon Institute estimating that 75 per cent of the average business's intellectual property is stored in its email accounts, it's perfectly feasible to suggest that a server outage has the potential to cause irreparable damage to any organisation. If a serious virus hits the primary system, for example, having access to an archive of all critical emails will be essential. This is not only to have any chance of fully recovering in the future, but also to continue operating at any capacity at all in the short term.
While technology is keeping up with the increasing demands of a data-driven enterprise world, it's not exactly steaming ahead. As inboxes begin to pile up, infrastructure will struggle and IT systems could start to become sluggish. This will only hinder productivity, with longer processing times causing real problems for staff. It may just take five seconds longer to open a message when a server is under extra pressure, but when so many are being sent every day, this delay soon adds up.
With an effective archiving system implemented, emails can be quickly and quietly moved from a company's hardworking servers to other digital storage spaces, whether that's in the cloud or a robust on-premises solution. This should help to boost efficiency for all users while instantly easing pressure on IT support - everybody wins.
As problematic as they are for businesses, lawsuits are very much a real part of the modern enterprise landscape. Legal action can be taken against a firm for all manner of reasons, so it pays to be properly prepared. Now that most communication - both internally and externally - occurs via email, companies must be aware that their inboxes contain huge caches of information that could prove useful in a court case.
This isn't just an external thing, either. It's not unheard of for staff - ex or even current - to take action against an employer. This could be after a dismissal or for any number of other reasons, but the business in question will only be in the best position to respond if they have all evidence to hand.
What's more, any firm that fails to submit information when requested by court can be charged with 'spoliation' - a term used to describe the improper destruction of evidence. This could come down to the deletion of a single email.
It's normal for businesses to enforce mailbox quotas on employees as they look to deal with the growing problems caused by clogged and unorganised inboxes, but this in itself can increase management overheads. Then, when users are forced by a lack of time to turn messages into PST or NSF files for safer keeping, the same problems are shifted to laptops and external hard drives, with data loss and corruption both real concerns.
Fortunately, all of these downsides can be avoided easily with the help of a robust, fully automated email archival system.