Why the enterprise can't shake its email addiction

Forget new (and better) technologies -- email is as entrenched in the business world as it's ever been. Here's why we can't break free.

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IT's Email Burden

For IT, email is an ongoing headache. Niraj Jetly, CIO at Edenred USA, the Newton, Mass.-based U.S. division of a global developer of employee benefits and incentive solutions, cites a quartet of hassles: the sheer volume of messages; compliance and security concerns; the risks that arise when users access corporate email on their personal devices; and international routing problems.

"No one can support ever-increasing mailbox sizes," he says. "At the same time, we have to ensure the safety and security of sensitive data being transmitted. We have to ensure the availability of emails archived by users on their laptops or desktops."

As a divisional CIO within a multinational organization, Jetly also says getting email from continent to continent is a challenge. "It gets very tricky when different government [regulations] and private-sector contracts restrict email routing," he explains. For instance, certain Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard mandates require that emails originating in the U.S. stay in the U.S.

The bring-your-own-device trend also worries him. "If an organization needs encrypted email but also supports BYOD, supporting access to corporate email on personal devices becomes a never-ending challenge," Jetly says. "And if a user loses a personal device, who has liability for the loss of data?"

Pete Kardiasmenos, a systems architect at SBLI USA, manages the New York-based insurance company's Exchange servers and gets involved with "anything relating to email." His biggest issue: users turning to free external email systems, such as Yahoo Mail and Gmail, to circumvent corporate storage limits.

"They don't have bad intentions. They want to know why they're limited to 500 megabytes when Gmail is unlimited. It's because the more space you have, the more time backup takes, the more complicated disaster recovery is. We have to constantly communicate our policies," he says. Like a lot of big enterprises, SBLI USA has had to block access to public email systems from company-owned computers as a security measure, and it has had to limit space in Exchange for most users because of the cost of storage.

Even then, he says, email is still a headache. "People keep email in their inbox the same way they keep files on their desktop, to keep them handy. They send the same file back and forth as an attachment until you have 10 versions that you have to store."

For Oakland County's Bertolini, management is the challenge -- managing passwords, and managing Outlook's .pst backup files when they get too big. At least, he says, when those files get too large, they start to generate error messages. "We find out about it when [users] have a problem," Bertolini says with a sigh.

"In one case, we discovered thousands of emails dating back to 2001," Bertolini recalls. "And the real problem is that most of them dealt with trivia like meeting for lunch. There's a cost to maintaining and managing email over time."

IT's biggest email-related burden is simply uptime, says Radicati. "The overriding concern for IT is making sure that it's up and running and available," she says.

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