by Paul Rudo on 21/03/11 at 4:27 pm
Disk space presents a major challenge for both the IT professionals managing a company’s messaging environment and its avid email users. There is never enough disk space to keep everything. Since many email users would like do just that, it creates two competing interests. Online consumer email applications such as Gmail, Yahoo! and Hotmail have conditioned people to think they can keep everything because there is more than enough space in the consumer cloud.
However, in a business environment, keeping every email employees send and receive is impractical. In addition to the cost of storage, there are also potential legal and human resource policy violations, among other considerations.
How can IT professionals reconcile the needs of email users who want to keep everything with corporate policy demands?
Hoarders are people with a compulsion to accumulate & store large quantities of nonessential things. It’s also the subject of a popular TV show on A&E. An email hoarder is a person who keeps every email he or she has ever sent or received, including that email from three years ago with the pictures from their niece’s friend’s cousin’s dog’s third birthday party. Just like the television show, the challenges these hoarders present are complex, but possible to overcome.
Specifically, there are four key challenges administrators need to tackle. Each has its own set of headaches for the email user and IT administrator. These include slow inbox response times; keeping low value data on the company’s servers; lost productivity due to unmanaged, unorganized data; and electronic discovery and litigation nightmares.
When addressing these challenges, there are some specific advantages for organizations using the Lotus Notes/Domino email platform because each user has their own database in which to store messages, also known as an .NSF file. A benefit of .NSF files is they are portable and can easily be moved from one server to another. Other benefits include a true ‘Send and File’ option and a built-in search option that locates messages no matter where they’re stored in the email system. Even with these great features, users still manage to hoard email, creating problems for administrators along the way.
If it were simple to solve these problems, companies wouldn’t need email management policies or systems. However, this is not the case, and each challenge is unique. So let’s deal with each accordingly.
Slow Inbox Response Times
Slow email inbox response times can be dealt with easily in Lotus Notes if users are trained not to keep everything in their inbox. Instead, they should use personal folders to file email. Using organized folders makes it easier for people to find their email later. IBM recommends keeping fewer than 1,000 documents in an inbox for optimal performance.
If users won’t organize email themselves, an automated Domino policy can be set to remove old items from an inbox. Any removed messages will still be available in the ‘All Documents’ view. Applying this policy will make inboxes more manageable, and response times will greatly improve.
Keeping Low Value Data on Company Servers
Initially, this may not seem like a huge challenge because disk space is inexpensive. However, if information is not business-related, is it worth keeping? Low value data can add up over time, when multiplied over hundreds or thousands of users, suddenly just adding more ‘cheap’ disk space can truly cost a lot of money.
There are many options available for dealing with email hoarders from a disk space perspective. First, a retention policy can be set up to manage user data. Policies can be configured to be as flexible or as strict as organizational constraints allow. Lotus Notes/Domino offers options for archiving messages via the ‘Compact’ task.
User data that should be archived can be defined based on several criteria. Users will still have access to email in their archive, but valuable disk space can be saved. One note of caution about archiving: stay away from local archives. Using local archives makes electronic discovery in a lawsuit difficult and more costly.
Attachment management is also an option. Attachments may take up to 50 percent or more of the space in a mail file. Many times, users have several copies of the same attachment. When someone uses the ‘reply with history’ option, the entire email gets sent again, including the attachments. Lotus Notes/Domino offers Domino Attachment and Object Service (DAOS), which allows for single-instancing attachments to help alleviate this problem. This means that if an attachment is duplicated in a given email or mail file, only one copy of that attachment is kept in the DAOS Store. As companies implement this feature, large amounts of disk space can be saved by simply removing duplicate attachments.
The other option is to make users responsible for their data by implementing a system requiring them to keep only data that is relevant to their job. This policy requires users to folder items that deal with their jobs and archive only those items. To avoid having users just place everything inside this folder, implement a system that requires them to tag or classify each document. While this may be time consuming, it will make users touch every document and determine its value. It will also help them organize their data, allowing the organization to keep only relevant information.
Organizing email allows employees to be more productive, and it saves time. If there are tens of thousands of documents in a person’s inbox, not only is the load time slow, but it will be difficult to find documents. Organizing email into folders allows users to reduce the size of their inboxes and find important documents faster. Lotus Notes allows users to ‘Move’ or ‘Add’ messages to a folder.
These options are different – the ‘Move’ option removes the message from the inbox to the personal folder, and ‘Add’ option keeps the message in its original location, but creates a pointer from the folder to the original message. If users organize messages using only the ‘Add’ feature, it will not help with inbox response time.
A great feature in Lotus Notes called ‘Send and File’ allows a user to send a message and file it in an organized folder that can be found easily later on. Regardless of what folder a message is stored in, the search feature in Lotus Notes searches messages located in personal folders, or people can use the ‘All Documents’ view and then sort by sender, subject, date or size to find misplaced email.
Electronic Discovery and Litigation Nightmares
When a legal or regulatory inquiry arises, it is unhelpful to have unmanaged, unorganized data. If the IT team doesn’t know where data is located – whether it’s on local workstations or on servers – it becomes difficult to product the correct information in a timely manner. This can be one of the most costly realities companies face when confronting the issue of email hoarding in organizations today.
For example, let’s say a company’s email policy is that email must be deleted after seven years, but a person who has been working for the company for eight years has squirreled away every email on his or her laptop.
Then, the company is sued, and opposing counsel requests all email pertaining to a group of users – and this group includes the hoarder. Since organizational policies were not applied to the hoarder’s stash of email, those older emails must be produced, which could make the company vulnerable to a myriad of problems.
Allowing users to keep everything – or have local replicas or local archives – can be costly to a company.
The good news is that having a solid plan in place and managing data proactively can go a long way in saving administrators time, money and stress. When deciding what should be kept and what should be deleted, there is a blog series that might be helpful to read called, “Managing Your Email: the Complete Series.”
To summarize, when addressing immediate email hoarding issues, first, make sure there is a solid organizational email policy in place. Doing so will provide guidance for keeping data issues under control. Second, educate email users and teach them how to manage and organize their data. It is important that people understand organizational email policies and what they are allowed and not allowed to do. Third, use the tools available.
Lotus Notes/Domino offers many features to assist administrators. If you find these tools don’t provide what’s needed, don’t be afraid to get help from third-party products.
This article was written by Denny Russell, senior product specialist for Lotus Domino at Sherpa Software. For more information, visit www.sherpasoftware.com.
Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bike/4605158221/