Electronic communication has become a critical and vital part of doing business in the modern global economy and, with the massive volumes of information exchanged electronically everyday, businesses need to have the same control of their electronic documentation as they do over their hardcopy paperwork.
Within the South African landscape specifically, the new Electronic Communications and Transactions (ECT) Act deems all electronic documentation as legal tender and companies are now inherently expected to institute systems and measures to organise and manage e-mails so that they can be accessed and retrieved on demand.
But this represents a major challenge for businesses, particularly smaller companies, which do not have the necessary infrastructure, know-how and IT support to implement a structured archive strategy and maintain the appropriate systems.
“For the IT administrator in the typical corporate company, it is near impossible to determine which emails must be retained and which ones should be discarded," says Dries Morris, managing director at specialist IT security management and consulting company, Securicom.
“Historically this archiving has been done on a per user basis using such things as pst files. But, these become very tedious to use and manage and are technologically flawed as well.
“Also remember that e-mail archiving is also a relatively new phenomenon worldwide and South Africa is also slightly behind the curve due to obvious differences in legislation and corporate governance maturity. This means that there are very few archival solutions geared specifically for local companies."
Recognising this, Securicom, has developed a robust e-mail archiving solution to assist small and medium sized South African enterprises in complying with the strict regulations imposed by the Act.
The solution solves the challenges of e-mail archiving and retrieval and allows small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to manage their e-mail lifecycle, while meeting the requirements of the ECT Act.
According to Morris, MailVault is an add-on to Securicom’s existing email security solutions.
“By subscribing to the MailVault service, clients can have all their Internet mail archived in an easily searchable and accessible manner; thereby making it possible to find the needle in a haystack email which may one day be needed for presentation in court,” explains Morris.
“MailVault provides organisations with a starting point and although it does not provide an end-to-end archiving solution, it does provide forensic archival of all messages entering and leaving the organisation.”
Morris says there are a limited number of archival solutions available on the market, ranging from complete electronic records management systems to the more basic email journaling solutions for in house deployment and, a handful of hosted solutions – like MailVault.
Each product has its good and bad points and at the end of the day, deciding which one to go with depends on budget available and the requirements of the business.
“When deciding on an archival solution, organisations should first determine what their archival requirements are from a corporate governance and legislative stand point. Then, they need to investigate the solutions that are available against those criteria.
“A complete end-to-end electronic records management solution is a nice to have but in a lot of cases not entirely necessary. Ideally, companies should consult with IT security and corporate governance consultants in order to pinpoint their archival needs and assist in selecting the most appropriate solution. This will also ensure that the security implications around storage and accessibility are fully investigated and addressed,” he says.