The Florida Legislature recently suffered some embarrassment as a result of its lack of an email retention policy – or, more accurately, the inadequacy of its retention policy. Background: former House Speaker accepted a $110,000 per year position with the Northwest Florida State College after, supposedly, being one of the driving forces behind the state funding directed to the College while Speaker. The press caught wind of a possible scandal and attempted to obtain copies of emails between Sansom and the College. And that’s when it emerged that the Legislature had no real form of email retention policy: sent items were routinely purged after 30 days and deleted items were routinely purged after 90 days.
It’s time for the Florida House and Senate to join the 21st century. If lawmakers are going to use 21st-century technologies to communicate with the public and one another, they should take steps to ensure these communications are preserved — and accessible to the public, read the editorial in TCPalm.
So, why weren’t the Legislature hanging onto their emails for longer? Because of storage constraints, seemingly. Sorry, but that’s a really lame excuse. Storage is dirt cheap and the price point of archiving solutions puts them well within reach of even smaller businesses. According to the Panama City News Herald:
The average House member uses about 569 megabytes of server space each month, with the average senator using about 700 megabytes, the documents said. Both are less than the 1 gigabyte of space available on an iPod Shuffle, Apple Inc.’s smallest portable music player, which holds about 500 songs. A free e-mail account from Google Inc. gives each user about 7,300 megabytes of space.
The House spends about $124,000 yearly on maintaining the system, according to Legislature information.
For that much, the House could also archive e-mail for three years, said Forrester Research analyst Chris Voce, who studies IT infrastructure. Upkeep for the House’s 750 users that would retain e-mails for three years should cost about $108,000 annually, Voce said.
Exactly. Retaining your email is actually pretty cheap these days – and the cost of retaining it can certainly be less than the cost of losing it.
Of course, storage constraints are not the only reason that some organizations choose not to retain their email. Some think that they do not need to (reading the posts here should set them straight on that). Others realize that they should be retaining but delay implemeting a solution because they become bogged down with details. In a recent post, Carl E. Reid said:
“Before the email archiving software selection process starts or any implementation meetings begin, something more important must occur first. Quite a few questions regarding email retention policy must be answered. This is a difficult, but very necessary process.”
I don’t completely agree with Carl on that. If you’re not currently archiving your email, you need to be – and you need to be doing so as soon as possible. It’s as simple as that. And what this means is that you shouldn’t delay implementing a solution because you haven’t clearly and completely defined your retention policies. Yup, there’s certainly some basics that you need to sort out before choosing a solution (you need one that matches your needs), but you do not need to nail down every last detail.
Define your needs. Choose a solution that will meet those needs. Get it up and running as soon as possible. And then work on fine tuning it.