When people talk about archiving email, they often use fairly discreet language. They say things like ‘compliance’ and ‘eDiscovery’. They point out that archiving email helps with lawsuits and makes email retention simpler. These phrases are helpful in identifying the benefits of archiving email, but they don’t quite cover the stark realities involved.
When you’re told that email archives can help you with compliance, it really means it helps you to obey the law. Or more correctly it makes it more difficult to inadvertently break the law. The law involved is usually the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. The punishment for breaking that law can run from fines to 20 years in jail.
According to the act, that punishment will be handed down to, ‘Whoever knowingly alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a false entry in any record, document, or tangible object with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States.’ The ‘knowingly’ and ‘impede’ parts of that description will need to be argued in front of a judge. But archiving email can help with the rest.
Sarbanes-Oxley lists altering or making false entries in documents or records as crimes under the act. As emails are important business documents these days, you need to make sure they are retained in an unaltered state. Email archiving does this by preventing editing of the documents within the archive. Once the email hits the archive, it retains its original form indefinitely.
Falsifying whole documents is also listed as a crime within the act and once again archiving email can help you to prove your document’s validity. A good email archive will automatically time-stamp an archived email using a complex algorithm that can’t be faked. So when you retrieve an email from the archive, you know it’s genuine.
For emails destroying means deleting and much like the altering section above, emails in the archive can’t be deleted. Once it’s in the archive, it’s in their for good.
Compliance may be a discreet euphemism, used to make business conversations around the law more palatable. Whatever word you use for it, archiving email can help you to avoid the stark consequences of a compliance breach.