Storage product sales continue to grow at rates as high as 50%, according to some estimates, but how to use all those products is a bigger problem.
Email archiving, for example, is one of the fastest-growing and potentially most troublesome markets for storage services because of the role email plays as evidence in lawsuits and financial investigations. Value-added resellers (VARs) and systems integrators (SIs) say email archiving service contracts are driven more by policies and guidelines than by technology, and that there are few consistent best practices for those policies.
Two years ago, EMC reseller Logicalis US., of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., was confronted with internal policy difficulties as it implemented its own email archiving system. There were plenty of questions, but the least obvious answer was how many years to keep archived email.
"It was a balancing act. Some [departments] wanted three months, others more. Finally we decided on three years, but our human resource and legal groups both have seven-year retention windows because they've got regulatory requirements they've got to meet," said Eric Linxweiler, senior vice president of managed services at Logicalis.
Logicalis execs decided to make use of the company's experience archiving its own email by launching a practice to help others do so. It uses EMC's email archiving software and Centera disk arrays. Yet, regardless of how good a product is, a key element of the company's selling tool is to establishing a set of rules for email archiving based on the customers business.
To do this, Logicalis hires consultants who help it with key customers like those at pharmaceutical and healthcare firms with strict standards for retaining important emails.
"For example, if a doctor is delivering any patient care instructions over email then that is under the HIPPA regulations," said Linxweiler. "You've got to deal with privacy concerns and storage concerns, and that's why you've got to know the customer's industry well," Linxweiler added.
Still, the right decision about what to do depends on the customer.
Mike Goldstein, vice president of business development at Lan Associates of Central Islip, N.Y., said he approached a law firm of 400 employees with an email archiving system believing that the firm would quickly buy the offering.
"Believe it or not, they turned around and said email archiving and those types of solutions are too expensive for us to maintain over a period of time and their corporate policy says they will not keep more than 90 days of email online at all," Goldstein said.
Goldstein said the law firm preferred to manually print important emails and file them away.
"Getting the prospective buyer to understand how important it is to have an email archiving policy and product in place is the biggest challenge," Goldstein said.
Still, Goldstein said his company has increased sales of Mimosa Systems' email archiving and recovery software NearPoint 25% since the second quarter of 2005.
IDC analyst Vivian Tero said a key challenge is the relative immaturity of VARs and SIs regarding their knowledge and understanding of e-discovery and compliance issues.
According to Tero, VARs and SIs hear a lot about compliance issues at a high level, but when it comes down to the actual tactics and strategies in terms of really understanding the legal nuances and the architectural decisions, that's a different issue all together.
"Unless they've experienced an actual e-discovery or an audit then for many companies it's very hard to understand what the potential discovery burden of their architectural decisions are," Tero said.
Logicalis, is seeing growth too. Since it launched its email management practice 18 months ago, email archiving sales have increased 200%, though starting at ground zero and moving up into more significant numbers makes the percentage increase less impressive than it would be otherwise, he said. Nevertheless, requests for email archiving services are stronger than ever.
"It's one of our fastest growing practices. There's not a day that goes by that I don't see at least three or four opportunities for email archiving coming across my desk," Linxweiler said. "We struggle to keep up with the opportunities," Linxweiler added.
Let us know what you think about this story; email: Nicole Lewis, Senior News Writer