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Should you archive spam?

Sure, spam is a waste of storage space, but before you delete it, you better figure out your legal liability.

This article first appeared in "Storage" magazine in the April issue. For more articles of this type, please visit

What you will learn from this tip: Everyone knows that spam gobbles up storage space, but before you delete it, you better figure out your legal liability.

Go ahead and add "wastes storage capacity" to the already long list of knocks against unsolicited promotional e-mail or spam.

Because of the sheer quantity of spam that corporate users receive -- in 2005, 45% of their daily average of 132 messages, according to the Palo Alto, Calif., based Radicati Group -- spam can dramatically swell the size of an e-mail archive and slow down indexing, search and retrieval.

Yet, in the absence of clear directives from regulatory bodies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), some firms are opting to archive all incoming e-mail -- diet pill promotions and all. Rather than try and second-guess the regulators, some firms have decided it's less risky to archive everything, says Mary Kay Roberto, senior VP and general manager for Veritas Enterprise Vault.

But archiving spam is probably overkill given the prevalence of anti-spam technology, says Pete Gerr, senior analyst at Milford, Mass., based Enterprise Strategy Group. "What the SEC is most concerned with is the consistency of your policy," he says. For example, do you filter out spam pre-delivery, before it hits the mailbox, or on the client? "As long as it's documented and adhered to, that's sufficient," Gerr notes.

"The SEC is practical," says Kon Leong, president, CEO and co-founder of Santa Clara, CA-based ZipLip, which makes the Unified Email Archival Suite. They understand archiving spam is silly, but they don't want its deletion to be used as "a way to worm out of compliance," he says.

As a practical consideration, it's probably best to avoid filtering out spam at the point of archival, where "it's much harder to do," and after it's been delivered to the user, Gerr says.

A better way to rid yourself of unwanted e-mail may be to subscribe to a third-party spam-deletion service, suggests Dan Nadir, VP of product management at FrontBridge Technologies, which provides e-mail archive, continuity and security services, including spam filtering.

"The consensus is that, regardless of whether an individual message is spam, if it was never delivered to you, you don't have to archive it," Nadir says.

For more information:

E-mail archive applications combat storage woes

Topics: Compliance

Issues to resolve when building an enterprise data archive

About the author: Alex Barrett is "Storage" magazine's trends editor.

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