Keeping email secure has never been more important than it is today. Companies have lost expensive court cases, with damages in the millions, by not having a reliable email archival system in place. Recent amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) provide litigants with greater access to electronic communication (e.g., email messages, IM, text messages), primarily for gathering evidence during the discovery phase for court cases. Dubbed e-discovery, these recent changes are helping put even more pressure on IT managers to have a suitable enterprise email management solution in place.

That's where MessageGate and LiveOffice enter the picture. Both vendors recently issued press releases touting surveys they've conducted with IT managers dealing with email governance and e-discovery. These surveys approach the topic from slightly different angles, but the message they're driving home is the same: Email governance in support of e-discovery is a vital part of any enterprise, and IT managers ignore that reality at their own peril.

According to the MessageGate survey, 29 percent of survey participants pointed to preparation for future litigation as a leading driver behind their interest in an email governance solution. The LiveOffice survey had a similar message, with 63 percent of survey respondents revealing that they had been required to produce emails as part of a legal request. Both companies seek to provide IT managers a ready-made solution for their email governance tasks, and both approach the problem from slightly different directions.

MessageGate tackles the issue primarily with its own suite of email governance applications, backed up by consulting and email analysis services. MessageGate software solutions help give users the tools they need to effectively manage their email systems form an email governance perspective. But the company stresses on its Web site that "...changes in user behavior, business processes, corporate culture, interpretation of regulations, and business relationships outpace software alone...while the right software can be an invaluable tool, proper email governance requires a more comprehensive approach."

LiveOffice provides a slightly different assortment of products and services, focusing primarily on its Web-based managed messaging services that provide spam and virus protection, message archiving, and other features. Hosted Microsoft Exchange Server solutions allow enterprises to turn over the back-end management of their email system to LiveOffice.

To underscore the importance of email governance for e-discovery, a LiveOffice executive recently described a company that had resorted to boxing up and storing printed emails in a large tractor-trailer. When a court case required access to some old emails, an attorney hired by the company had to manually search through stacks of boxes and sheets of paper to retrieve the emails in question. While the mental image of a besuited lawyer rummaging through moldy cardboard boxes for emails is a humorous one, the LiveOffice argument is well taken: Given the high hourly cost of legal representation, using an archaic system of email storage-or not even having one at all-is bound to cost more than having an effective email management strategy.