From the biggest state to the smallest city council, public-sector agencies must retain files, e-mail, instant messages and other types of data to comply with sunshine laws and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
"If there's even a hint of a lawsuit, it makes sense to have an archiving system," says Michael Osterman, president and founder of Osterman Research. But compliance isn't the only driver. Along with satisfying regulatory requirements, archiving can aid storage management, expedite end-user self-service and extract business intelligence.
The city of Winter Park, Fla., has long relied on an archiving tool to produce public records. "We don't have to go to multiple people to find e-mails; we just run the search through [Symantec] Enterprise Vault," says IT Manager Parsram Rajaram.
Osterman says organizations can achieve significant cost savings from archiving. In a recent report, he offers a few estimates based on an organization with 500 users, an IT staffer who earns $80,000 a year, and legal fees of $200 per hour. In such a scenario, an e-discovery or regulatory audit would cost $74,538 without archiving, or $38,000 with. As another example, using archiving to let users recover their own documents costs $19,231 per year, compared with $115,385 without archiving.
In Winter Park, archiving also helps reduce storage costs and boosts Exchange server performance. "We have to use faster disks for e-mails than we do for file servers," Rajaram notes. Archiving messages older than a year allows him to store that data on SATA disks rather than SAS.
As the city moves forward with a SharePoint rollout, Rajaram anticipates tapping Enterprise Vault to archive that content. The product can also archive file server data, something Rajaram may call upon as IT begins to archive files and folders that haven't been used for a period of time.
"Preserving state e-mails as a public record is vital to a transparent and accountable government."
-- Gov. Beverly (Bev) Perdue, North Carolina
"Ensure archiving policies are defined in the overarching e-mail policy, place particular attention on e-mails that involve litigation, and change the retention policy of the subject e-mails."
-- Peter Main, IT section chief, Louisiana Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness
"I cannot imagine a jurisdiction working without the advantages of an archiving tool because the technology is a money-saver."
-- Teri Chambers, IT director, city of Kennesaw, Ga.
By the Numbers
Minimum length of time Massachusetts municipal employees must retain e-mail regardless of informational or evidential value
Number of e-mail messages sent and received daily by about 41,000 North Carolina state workers
$400,000 to $900,000
Estimated cost to restore about 470 backup tapes in Toussie v. County of Suffolk (N.Y.)
Average number of hours IT workers spend in a typical week recovering deleted or missing e-mail or files, as found in an Osterman Research survey
Estimated number of worldwide e-mail accounts by 2014, up from roughly 2.9 billion in 2010, according to the Radicati Group
Length of time backup tapes were retained by the city of New Orleans before they were overwritten, as discovered in the probe of former Mayor C. Ray Nagin's missing e-mail
Targeted at small and midsize businesses, GFI MailArchiver aims to solve Exchange Server e-mail management problems. The archiving software can help public-sector organizations meet e-mail retention requirements while reducing the burden on the mail server and users' dependency on PST files.
Teri Chambers, IT director for the city of Kennesaw, Ga., deployed GFI MailArchiver in 2007 to control the growth of users' mailboxes and ease e-mail retrieval. She chose the product because of its cost-effectiveness and features.
She appreciates the tool's web interface and Outlook integration. "The Outlook plug-in acts just like a folder, which provides almost no learning curve for my users," Chambers says.