Email contains valuable intellectual property that needs to be protected against loss. What alternatives does the business have to meet that goal? Intellectual property is the set of ideas, inventions, and designs that gives your business value—it is your intellectual capital. For Google, it is the secrets of their search algorithm. For Lockheed Martin, it is the design for their newest stealth fighter. For Pixar, it is the software they have written to make superior graphics.
The term intellectual property relates to intangible property such as patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. Patents, trademarks, and copyrights are registered in government coffers, where government is responsible for cataloguing that. In the case of a new sorting algorithm or a new chip design, those detailed design documents become a matter of public record, detailing that invention, so that someone cannot copy it or, if they do, the rights holder can claim infringement.
But trade secrets take on many different formats. This includes emails and documents attached to emails. Whatever system you use for messaging, Exchange or Zimbra, these contain the complete chronological history of the development of your product from conception, to release, to revision.
Why a reliable archive is important.
These documents have been stored in different repositories over the years as technologies change. First it was shared drives, then Lotus Notes, then SharePoint. As a company switches from one platform to another, that data is supposed to be migrated, but there is the risk that the document or email you wrote 7 years ago and saved on a shared mount point on the LAN, no longer exists. That is why a reliable archive is important. Also, losing archived documents and their attachments subjects the company to significant regulatory and legal risk.
Legislation around document retention
Government has specific requirements for document retention. In the USA, those are more strictly spelled out than in the EU.
- In the wake of the Enron bankruptcy, the Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) act was passed, so that companies could document the accuracy of their financial statements.
- With health care reform came the Health Insurance and Patiently Portability Act (HIPPA).
- With the recent Recession and the collapse of Lehman brothers came Franks-Dodds, an update to Gramm-leach-Bliley.
The goal of all of this legislation is to compel companies to keep electronic records so that they can produce them in the case of litigation, accusations of fraud, or whatever dispute a company has with stockholders, stakeholders, or regulators. Some of these rules, like SEC 17a-3-4 stipulate the format required—that rule says that electronic records must be maintained in secure offsite, tamper-proof facilities. Those accused of tampering with any electronic records face jail time of up to 20 years. Sox record retention requirements is 5 years. For HIPAA it is 6. In the case of litigation, a permanent archive is best.
What about intellectual property?
It’s not just the blueprint for a product that you need to protect, it’s its evolution. If your company brings action against a competitor for patent infringement or copyright violations, that is when the company needs email to document the trail that led to the development of this product. The emails between executives and customers and vendors helps the attorneys make the case that the competitor is profiting using ill-gotten gains.
What used to be called discovery is now called e-discovery
What attorneys used to call discovery is now called e-discovery. This is where the archive is crucial. Failure to maintain an archive could constitute a breach of regulations or even contempt of court.
There are several different ways to archive email. The awkward, not-very-flexible way is to copy PST and NSF data files to long term storage then import this data back online when you are looking for something from a few months or a few years ago. That’s analogous to exporting an Oracle database to archive format and then importing it back when you are looking for something that is offline.
A better way is to archive email in a manner that, to the user, appears to be not offline at all. That is what an archive email cloud vendor does. This kind of configuration lets users search the archive and retrieve documents into the active email folders.Using a cloud email archiving system, like ArcTitan, plus you in compliance with the rules for off-site, secure, and tamperproof archives.
Other reasons to keep a protected archive
- Running afoul of government regulations is not the only reason to keep a protected archive. You need these documents in the case of lawsuits. That could be sexual harassment lawsuits, unlawful dismissal, product liability, and even criminal complaints.
- Also the archive is important in the case of vendor or contract disputes and issues surrounding product warranties, as those are found there in the email: invoices, scanned contracts, and agreements.
- Finally, the archive is important when you lose the technical details for how to do something today that you did 3 years ago, when the employee who designed that was still with the firm.
So reduce risk to your business by putting your email archive in the secure cloud with a company that focuses on that.