Friday, August 1, 2008

E-mail archiving

There's an interesting thread at Slashdot asking "Are There Any Smart E-mail Retention Policies?"

Major points emerging from the discussion: Several people have jumped up to defend retention, saying "It really saved my ass to be able to document this, that, or the other thing many months later." As for lawsuits - if a judge decides that your short term retention policy is designed to limit evidence against you, you're in a world more trouble than you probably would have been had you saved the data.

The counterpoints: of course, sometimes what you were doing is so heinous that you really would rather be merely presumed guilty than have it proven just how guilty you really are.* But aside from that, there are honest temptations to short retention times, just because retention is expensive. Storing a lot of data means more expensive servers and possibly slower overall performance. Also, if you do get sued, the discovery phase is horribly expensive; the more data you have, the more hours you're spending looking for the relevant information. I would consider these honest temptations to retain less data (just attempting to save money, not trying to hide anything).

But on balance, I think the "save it longer" voices have the better of the argument. Documents don't just incriminate - they can exonerate, too.

*Or have it come out that you're guilty of more than your accusers knew about.

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