E-discovery rules deliver message on need for e-mail archiving

Companies turn to software for storing, retrieving electronic documents

With its early embrace of Linux and its highly reliable online banking site, KeyBank NA is among the most efficient, cutting-edge banks in the U.S. when it comes to IT -- except in one area, until recently.

When Al Coppolo was asked by lawyers at the KeyCorp operating unit to produce old e-mails for litigation or regulatory compliance reasons, he would have as many as four members of his IT team trudge to an off-site storage facility to retrieve tapes, then mount them on servers and painstakingly search for the requested messages.

"It was a completely manual environment," said Coppolo, who is executive vice president and director of infrastructure at Cleveland-based KeyBank. "Sometimes we would have to look through multiple copies of the same e-mail on multiple tapes if there were multiple replies."

The process was so laborious and time-consuming that usually his team just barely met a 30-day internal deadline for producing e-mails. And, Coppolo noted, the number of legal requests was only growing. Moreover, new federal e-discovery rules went into effect in December that spelled out requirements for submitting electronic documents – including e-mail and instant messaging logs – as evidence in civil court cases.

There are several technology alternatives available to companies looking for help. KeyBank opted for a full-blown archiving and content management system to support its 300TB e-mail archive.

The bank looked at several records management products, including one developed by iLumin Software Services Inc., which now is owned by CA Inc. But KeyBank settled on AXS-One Inc.'s namesake software, which it bought from Sun Microsystems Inc. as part of a compliance and content management product bundle.

AXS-One can manage both e-mail and IM, and it captures a copy of each message that is sent or received. To give users one-click access to old messages, it creates message "stubs" in their e-mail directories, according to AXS-One.

Coppolo said the tools are working well enough that he hopes to eventually train KeyBank's legal team to use AXS-One, in order to free up his IT staffers for other tasks.

The increased need for companies to be able to produce electronic evidence is "a pretty serious issue," said Michael Osterman, an analyst at Osterman Research Inc. in Black Diamond, Wash.

And many companies don't appear to be ready to comply with the new e-discovery rules. For example, in a survey conducted by Computerworld last fall, 32% of the 170 IT managers and staffers who responded said their companies weren't at all prepared to meet the new requirements. Only 5% said their companies were completely prepared.

Resorting to ad hoc help instead of installing software can be expensive, Osterman said. He estimated that hiring an outside forensics firm to help comply with e-discovery requests costs about $35,000 per tape.

Osterman said archiving systems such as AXS-One are "pretty high-end" products for large companies with e-mail indexes that bulge out to "Google-like sizes." Other products in that category include Symantec Corp.'s Enterprise Vault and EMC Corp.'s Documentum line, he added.

A less costly alternative, Osterman said, is adding search and retrieval software from vendors such as Mimosa Systems Inc. and Lucid8 LLC to existing e-mail servers. "Lots of companies, especially those with a reasonable number of e-mail users, can get by just with search and extraction tools," he said. "If you've got 100,000 e-mail users, you might want to go with an archiving tool."

A third route is to swap out one of the first-tier mail servers for a less expensive product with stronger built-in search and storage features. That's what the city of Marshalltown, Iowa, did in December, when it moved from Novell Inc.'s GroupWise to a Linux-based e-mail server from PostPath Inc.

PostPath CEO Duncan Greatwood said the Mountain View, Calif.-based start-up's software is fully compatible with Microsoft Corp.'s Exchange Server. But PostPath uses the Linux file system to store messages more efficiently, enabling users to have "bottomless mailboxes," Greatwood claimed. He also said that users can more easily search for messages in PostPath's software than in Exchange.

William Lawyer, Marshalltown's information systems coordinator, agreed that messages stored PostPath can be easily managed and searched. "We don't have a monolithic database with all sorts of post office files to deal with," Lawyer said. "PostPath just stores each mail as an individual file."

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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