SMS unveils e-mail management package

SMS Data Products Inc., McLean Va., last week introduced an e-mail management application focused on storing the millions of messages agencies send and receive daily.

Unveiled last week at the Special Interest Group on CD Applications and Technology conference in Baltimore, the package bundles software from Smart Storage Inc., Andover, Mass., and a CD-Recordable jukebox from Sony Electronics Inc., to allow workers to archive e-mail messages and store them on a CD-R disc.

Joe Grajewski, vice president with SMS, said messages with the same retention periods would be stored together, and the discs could be destroyed or given to the National Archives and Records Administration for preservation when the agency no longer needed to keep them. He said the solution is designed to offer information technology managers a way to use systems they already have to address federal records-management requirements.

Ever since a federal judge ruled in October that agencies must preserve electronic records in digital form, IT managers and agency records officers have viewed their tasks differently. Records officers, in charge of ensuring that agencies keep documents that are legally and historically important, are looking for ways to tag and categorize important records when they are created so that they do not get lost or deleted.

Meanwhile, IT managers have tended to focus on how to store files once considered disposable. In court papers, Jack Finley, director of the General Services Administration's Electronic Messaging Technologies Center, said storing e-mail on a "live" system would be equivalent to "changing the oil in a car without draining out the old oil. Sooner or later the system will clog, and the engine will be damaged or destroyed."

Dean Bundy, a records manager with the Naval Research Laboratory and co-chairman of an interagency group that is looking at electronic recordkeeping solutions, said, "Physical storage of electronic records is a problem that will have to be dealt with at some point," possibly by revising agency records-retention policies so that many files do not have to be stored for as long as paper ones are now.

At the heart of the SMS solution is a new feature that Smart Storage wrote for its Smart CD software, which some agencies have been using for recording compact discs. The feature allows e-mail users to put their messages and attachments in categories defined by agency records officers. Once sorted, the messages are forwarded to a repository and recorded on CD-R discs according to disposition instructions the agency specifies.

Kirit Patel, chief executive officer for Smart Storage, said agencies could use other digital records management software with the system if they wanted to, and he expects that they will. "Ultimately you will have to bridge" the e-mail application and storage with electronic recordkeeping software, Patel said, but the solution is a good short-term fix "if you want to start simple."

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