I’m not a lawyer I just play one on TV OR getting whipped by the tail of the e-mail offloading

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Frank: “Hey Dad, before I go off into the world what is the one bit of advice that you would give me?”

Frank’s Dad: “If I had to give you one piece of advice it would be save all your receipts and tax returns for seven years in a file cabinet someplace in the back of your closet.”

Frank: “That’s it?! You mean nothing about women? Nothing about credit? Nothing like own at least one suit and a pair of good shoes?”

Frank’s Dad: “Nope that’s it. Trust me you’ll see…”

Now that I’m older I can give this advice to my son. I can also give the same advice to e-mail administrators, “save all your e-mails, someplace safe, for at least three years… preferably more.”

Now here’s the technology part:

It’s becoming more and more apparent that offloading large file attachments from e-mail using a third-party technology integrated with e-mail servers, requires a rethinking of strategy of e-mail and data archival and storage strategy.

The first e-mail offloading technologies appeared 3 years ago with appliances that were deployed and allowed e-mail administrator to automatically remove attachments from e-mails, store those attachments on a separate server away from the e-mail environment and then insert a link to that attachment inside the original e-mail. This gave the administrator the ability to reactively parse attachments looking for compliance with policies on encryption, data loss prevention and data security. It also allowed the e-mail administrator to reduce their support calls and requests for larger e-mail boxes, to deal with the growing number and size of attachments. (Ironically one of the things that people never seem to take into account is “just because I can send it doesn’t mean you can receive it”). 

If attachments stored on a separate server bypass the entire e-mail architecture, hurray for the e-mail administrators who were getting slammed with the high cost of performance and availability of e-mail systems. This seemed to be a win-win solution and some vendors made a killing by selling technologies that focused on e-mail offloading. Fast forward to today and you will find that most managed file transfer vendors, including Ipswitch, offers the capability to offload and governed attachments. Different vendors have different approaches and technologies to e-mail offloading and those differences can cause a tremendous amount of pain during an audit. 

E-discovery is a perfect example of a compliance initiative that companies must deal with. (Remember the lawyers!) In layman’s terms E-discovery is all about the laws and requirements governing the archiving, non-repudiation and chain of custody of e-mails… yes the same e-mails where we’ve been attaching PowerPoint documents are subject to rules around E-discovery! (So are the pictures of that vacation to Cancun that you sent to your best friend in marketing.) Are you feeling the pain yet? 

Here is a scenario that you need plan for- a judge or magistrate orders your company to present a specific set of e-mails. You have 24 hours in which to submit the e-mails. Some of those e-mails have attachments that were offloaded using MFT technology. How will you reconcile the original e-mails with the original attachments, in a timely fashion, for presentation to a judge? If your e-mails and attachments were separately archived then you will likely be held in contempt of court. 

Some vendors solve this issue by storing the e-mail and attachment as one package that is archived as one unit, making the un-archiving process simpler. Other vendors try to create relationships between the e-mail and the attachments, but you know how difficult metadata can be especially when shared between two independent systems. Some vendors don’t consider this their problem to solve. It is these vendors that must step to the plate and commit to a viable and plausible strategy around archival and retrieval. 

Okay this is the part where you may want to take notes. 

If you are a user of this technology, you should immediately investigate how e-mails in their attachments are being archived and you should move to ensuring that your companies archival and storage policies are being enforced with respect to this technology. Failure to do so may result in compliance issues that could cost your company a fair chunk of money in penalties and contempt of courts.

In layman’s terms, if the judge says you need to prove XYZ- you need to quickly locate, un-archive, prove non-repudiation and show proper chain of custody. 

Then again, I’m not a lawyer I just play one on TV.

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