Disappearing e-mails a legal threat

E-mail's most vexing question: how do you know it's missing if it never arrives - may be annoying for users. However, it could be a serious legal problem for IT managers who could fall foul of federal archiving laws.

Under Australia's Archives Act of 1983, e-mail should be treated in the same way as paper records and for public sector agencies deleting e-mails is illegal.

However, the act does not take into account some of the problems of e-mail technology -- such as the amount of storage space needed to keep them on file. Nor does the act make allowances for the number of e-mails that go missing.

IT production facilities manager at Monash University, Steven White, said the problem of disappearing e-mails is hard to manage.

"Last year we realised one in five e-mails was not reaching its destination; we found out because users were complaining to the help desk. When an e-mail was sent the second time it would go through," White said.

"Also, we wanted to be able to review and assess e-mail traffic as we had had problems with our SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) farm earlier in the year."

This was a further complication to the problem of storing e-mails for record keeping purposes, which one IT manager from a Federal Government agency described as an "insane" practice.

"It is impossible to police users and stop them from deleting e-mails despite the fact they are the property of the employer," he said. There is significant debate surrounding the archiving of e-mail with one group believing it should be kept and the other which simply deletes old e-mail after a set period.

The National Archives of Australia has warned commonwealth agencies it is illegal to delete e-mails and to avoid purchasing software which deletes e-mail after a set period of time.

White said there needs to be quotas on usage to stop users from treating e-mail as a filing system for documents.

He said the university, which is the 15th largest IT user in Australia, implemented BMC Patrol software to monitor e-mails and to ensure IT is notified if there is more than 300 in a queue.

Tenders for e-mail management software went to 10 vendors, which was shortlisted to three -- Compaq, IBM and BMC.

White said Compaq and BMC worked hard to win the contract whereas IBM put the university onto a reseller and didn't follow up.

"The Compaq bid was good but it was a hybrid solution combining Computer Associates and BMC. We were concerned that when we wanted product support there would be some finger-pointing, whereas a single vendor can provide customer focus," he said.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Sandra Rossi

Computerworld
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?