The gentle art of finding that frakking email

05 maart 2018 - Hendrik Parmentier - Security

Story one: The Endless Wait.

Jane is a professional accountant in her mid-forties. She’s loyal too, as her employer-for-fifteen-years would gladly attest. Lastly, she’s also very thorough. So now that a not-so-very loyal customer sued the company over information that was allegedly never sent by Jane, it is up to her to find the accursed email and shove it up their… well. Jane’s been sitting there for a while now. Early signs of dehydration, the sun coming back up. Jane is starting to look mid-fifties. It’s been a long night.

Story two: Fast Eddy

Fast Eddy was never a model employee. However, it took a couple of years for his employer to find out. Fast Eddy was a busy emailer though. Had a mailbox of 250 Gb. Go figure. But when Fast Eddy decided it was time to move on to greener pastures, he cleaned that mailbox out. No need digging in the past, dear employer. So now Eddy is gone and so are his emails. And possibly customers, which he’d been filtering through to the competition. Or the R&D blueprints. One big empty mailbox with 250 Gb worth of data leak.

Presumably, at one point in our careers, we have been in Jane’s chair and watched Fast Eddy drive off the parking lot in a suspiciously expensive car. ‘But we just upped our mailboxes to 100 Gb so everyone would stop complaining’. Not a solution to the above. Also, Outlook is a mail handler, not a mail storage. Putting your mails in an intricate folder structure does NOT guarantee you will find them back easily. Not to mention accidental deletion. We’ve all been there. And have you noticed how your mail handler becomes cumbersome and slow after a couple of years, and everything takes ages? There you go. Not an archive.

A real email archive is a solution that keeps ALL in- and outbound emails stored away safely. The emails can be viewed and consulted, but not changed or taken out of the archive. If its in there, its stays in there with compliancy-level certainty. You can do this on a local drive, but that’s not always handy. You will need a backup for when that one fails, not to mention the constantly increasing storage space you will be needing. Adding drive upon drive upon drive through eternity.

So cloud archiving then? Why not? Put it in secure and dedicated data center with a nifty failover so you don’t have to worry about ever losing anything. If legal department needs an email, they can do a company-wide search. The search engines on archive solutions are a lot more powerful than those in outlook. Every single mail gets broken down in search terms through a process called ‘journaling’. And since noone can take anything out of an archive: if Legal Dept. can’t find it within the SLA-guaranteed 7 seconds of searching, that email simply never existed. You can take that to court. Literally. (Insert drumroll.)

But there’s actually more fun to be had with something as boring-sounding as archiving. I delete all my emails after handling them. My personal archive guarantees access to ALL my emails EVER. And the aformentioned search engine makes sure I can find them back way quicker than in any sort of folder structure. Archives do folder structures too, by the way. If you ask nicely. And with a clever outlook in plugin, it’s just an extra button, so your users usually don’t even notice anything changed. To top it off, this also means my local device has almost no emails on it. GDPR anyone ? Neat.

But since I am a smug bastard, there is one thing I like even better. Not only does a decent archive keep the email, it also stores the trajectory of that email to the point of delivery. Combine that with a handy app, and I can whip out my phone during a restaurant meeting, find that email I sent three years ago, and prove to you it was received by your mail server. Bet you can’t do that, can you? Well, you can, now that you know where to ask.

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