How some jurisdictions are managing

Some jurisdictions are automating their recordkeeping process to make e-mail

messages easier to manage and access.

For example, five years ago Hillsborough County, Fla., began using an

in-house system, called Mailbag, to manage its e-mail messages. The system

archives messages and allows citizens to perform searches of millions of

records dating back to 1992, said Lelia Blevins, director of administrative

services for the county.

"We have employees, private citizens and reporters come in to view e-mails,

and I set them up at a workstation to do their research," Blevins said.

The system has its limitations. For example, it doesn't track messages

that come into the county from outside. "Our state law only requires that

we keep copies of messages we send," Blevins said.

The state of Michigan starting using Provenance Systems Inc.'s (now

known as TrueArc) ForeMost electronic records management system last December

to manage records including e-mail messages, said Jim Kinsella, director

of the state's Records and Forms Management Division.

The system, which costs about $50,000 for 60 users, has made archiving

e-mail messages more efficient, Kinsella said. "If I need to retrieve an

e-mail in the future, I always know I can find it," he said.

However, "ForeMost does not sort through messages for those that must

be kept," he said. "That is a decision the user must make."

TrueArc has introduced a new application called TrueArc for Microsoft

Exchange, said Russell Stalters, TrueArc's chief operating officer. The

product is designed to help organizations manage e-mail by moving messages

off e-mail servers and onto separate secure servers that are fully searchable

in real time, he said.

As an added attraction, the company has developed ArcIQ; when its patent

is approved, the software will be able to "learn" and apply an organization's

e-mail policies as it processes e-mail messages. The application can be

reconfigured to account for policy changes and, using neural network technology,

can become "smarter" and more accurate as the contents of the archives grow,

Stalters said.

Even as they hash out policies, many officials believe technology will

eventually resolve the issues surrounding electronic correspondence.

"The problem is going to go away over time because the technology is

really going to be able to handle this thing fairly and easily," said Mitchell

Pearlman, executive director and general counsel for the Freedom of Information

Commission in Connecticut. "But we are probably not there yet."

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