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January 31, 2007

Provide email with the protection it deserves

The corporate email system has become a business-critical application in that organizations are increasingly conducting business via email, such as negotiating contracts, conducting business with customers, and distributing documents. However, unfortunately, the email system is often not afforded the same treatment as other business-critical applications when it comes to protection.

By CBR Staff Writer

Email has evolved from being a tool of the privileged few to being widely used throughout organizations, with the vast majority of employees having an email account. Because it has also become a social tool, many organizations allow personal emails to be sent and received, and here lies the problem. Most organizations recognize the importance of email to their business, and are greatly inconvenienced when it is unavailable, but because of its social connotation, they fail to appreciate its criticality to the business.

Of course, if the email system fails, there are other methods of communication. Contracts and other content can be printed and faxed, or they may be sent via ‘snail mail’ if they contain sensitive content, and users can pick up the telephone if they cannot send messages, but email was intended to replace all of these other communication channels.

As email has evolved, business processes have also changed to reflect this communication method, and in many areas, email has become an integral part of processes, to such an extent that if it is unavailable the business can potentially be damaged. For example, if delays are encountered in submitting a contract, business could be lost. Similarly, if an order cannot be confirmed via email, it may fail to progress through the workflow and may not be processed.

However, it is not just from the perspective of users that the email system needs protection: the emails themselves must also be protected. Emails are now accepted as evidence in litigation, an increasing number of regulations require the retention of emails, and, as the case of Morgan Stanley revealed, it is no longer an acceptable defense to claim that emails were lost or became unavailable because of a disaster.

When organizations are making their disaster recovery provision and assessing which applications should be replicated to the disaster recovery site, the corporate email system is all too often neglected. If the solution to a problem that causes the email system to become unavailable is a simple reboot, then this is not too much of an issue. However, a serious problem resulting in the system being down for days can have an acute impact on many organizations, to the extent that some applications that rely on the email system may not work properly.

Email has become such a useful and critical business tool that any major downtime will invariably impact the business. The corporate email system must, therefore, be catered for in disaster recovery provision.

Source: OpinionWire by Butler Group (www.butlergroup.com)

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