Better Email Archiving Through Easier Content Tagging

Mimosa Systems' new option for NearPoint can help you establish and manage an effective archive for e-discovery

Not all email is equal. Or so says Scott Whitney, vice president of product management for Mimosa Systems. And going with the premise that all email isn't equal, you need an easy way to differentiate which messages are important to your business so that you can correctly archive content without overburdening your storage. Therefore, Mimosa Systems has added a new module to its successful NearPoint for Microsoft Exchange Server: the NearPoint Retention and Classification Option (RCO).

Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 provides features such as journaling, transport rules , and messaging records management (MRM)  to help with regulatory compliance, and in theory they should be able to help you tag and apply retention policies to your messaging content. However, these features haven't exactly taken off with Exchange admins, perhaps because they're too complicated to implement. (However, if you want to give MRM a try, I recommend checking out J. Peter Bruzzese's article "Using MRM to Manage Mailboxes"; he gives you easy-to-follow instructions and includes a screencast of the procedure as well.)

Mimosa Systems' goal with RCO is to help organizations lower storage costs and facilitate easier e-discovery. "Storing, managing, and discovering is what Mimosa Systems is about," Whitney said. By archiving only necessary items and by not maintaining items beyond the necessary period of time, you'll make the best use of your storage.

NearPoint RCO gives admins the ability to easily set policies to automatically classify user-generated content. Retention policies have two components: a condition and an action. You have fairly granular control over establishing your set of criteria. As Whitney said, "You can almost start to think of that as a query, like an e-discovery query, in fact, where it could be based on a group, it could be based on metadata, when it was sent, when the file itself was written, et cetera. But we also added in this other dimension, which is content. So it can be content in an attachment, in a PowerPoint document, in a spreadsheet. It could be a driver's license number in the message body, it could be a medical record number, et cetera."

The action part of the policy sets the retention period you want for that class of message. As another great feature, RCO can apply policies to content already in your archive, and it's flexible so that you can change policies on content already at rest in the archive—without having to duplicate or resave that information.

When looking at the state of email archiving, Whitney thinks that companies are seeing more benefits to a good archive. "A lot of organizations are seeing these archives become a tool to help protect the organization," Whitney said. Knowing what you have, with good classification tags, is a great way of protecting yourself and being ready should an e-discovery request land on you.

However, clearly not every organization has gotten a good hold on email archiving yet. "I think there is some risk of a lot of organizations using backup tapes as their preservation mechanism," Whitney said. "The backup tape does not make an archive. . . . It can be, but you're overpreserving and consequently exposing yourself to more risk." Furthermore, tape can lead to a difficult and lengthy e-discovery process.

The other area where Whitney feels companies have work to do is in file archiving—what he calls "free-range content" on your network. Coincidentally—or probably not—Mimosa Systems introduced the NearPoint File System Archiving Option earlier this year. For more information about NearPoint RCO or Mimosa Systems, email [email protected] or visit the company's website.

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