The amount of storage that corporations require to house their application data, including mission-critical data, is growing at an increasingly fast pace—even exponentially. In addition to the growing volume of corporate data, a new emphasis on data value is leading administrators to rethink the way they manage data growth. Many applications now give companies a way to use data to gain knowledge about customers, to protect themselves from litigation, to meet regulatory requirements, to build revenue, and to grow the business in general.

No one application typifies the mutual importance of data volume and value better than corporate email. An IDC report states that the number of new messages sent each day is growing—from 9.7 billion in 2000 to 35 billion in 2005. Not only do the increasing number of messages and an increase in attachment size affect volume growth, so does an increase in actual storage capacity. "The Storage Report—Customer Perspectives & Industry Evolution," a June 19, 2001, joint-industry study by McKinsey & Company and Merrill Lynch's Technology Research Group, discusses this increase. Of the total storage capacity shipped in 2000, corporations used roughly 2 to 4 petabytes for email applications.

As we struggle to manage the growing volume of email, the real challenge is in the data's value. Certain Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations dictate the number of years that companies must keep specific data for tax-auditing purposes, but the need to retain data goes beyond that 7-year retention period. More than ever, corporations need to protect themselves from litigation as well as meet other industry-specific regulatory requirements such as Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Rule 3010. That need continues to grow as businesses create new dependencies on digital-messaging data.

The key to IT success with any messaging application lies in the application's manageability. A number of software solutions provide capabilities such as email backup and recovery (for disaster protection) as well as the establishment of user quotas that modify users' behavior by requiring them to reduce the volume of email they generate. Quotas aren't necessarily the solution of choice for email management, however, given the crucial importance of the information in many messages. For example, saving and sending video files of corporate presentations to employees working at remote sites might provide a competitive edge that these offsite employees need. This digital information is valuable, and you must distribute and manage the files. Therefore, a restrictive system of messaging management might not be the best answer.

Email archiving is a management technique that lets corporations distribute content and collaborate without imposing quota restrictions. Email-archiving solutions consider individual user mailboxes and migrate individual messages and attachments to secondary (i.e., archival) storage based on criteria such as frequency of access, age of messages, and time of last access. This type of solution lets you realize several benefits, including the ability to lift mailbox restrictions and control the growth of server-attached storage (you can centralize archives to a Storage Area Network—SAN—or to offline media). In addition, email archiving reduces the backup window and backup sizes because there are fewer active messages to back up in individual mailboxes or on individual email servers.

A truly sophisticated email-archiving solution should also give you the ability to survey email usage patterns on storage servers (i.e., who's sending what, high traffic times, and types and size of attachments) as well as disk storage usage with respect to email (e.g., how much space attachments are taking up for each server and user) so that you can manage your archiving policies appropriately. The ability to screen for viruses and to manage the deletion of inappropriate messages or other messages based on site-defined criteria is a plus. Not all messages and attachments are candidates for archiving—you should delete certain messages after a period of time, depending on regulatory or other corporate requirements.

The management of storage used for collaborative applications such as email shouldn't be an arduous task. Management tools, coupled with appropriate planning, can help you manage the explosive volume of email and various types of attachments, while giving your business maximum value and protection.