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Mother's Day for your data – World Intellectual Property Day!

April 26th is World Intellectual Property Day.

This is a day of recognition that was started in 2001 by the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Do we need a day to remind us how important Intellectual Property (IP) is?

Personally I think we do.

Sure we know about the value that we get from patenting our big ideas, from documenting and enforcing our workflows that give us the competitive edge we need. We know about the big ideas, the things that are easy to differentiate, the processes that clearly are our own and stand us apart from our competitors.

But is this knowing about our IP or is this simply protecting our key assets?

Let’s take a look at another day that is celebrated in many countries around the world, Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day is a very old traditional holiday that celebrates motherhood and honours mothers. Rather than letting these two essential and everyday parts of our society languish in anonymity, we choose to bring them to the fore to recognise and cherish what mothers do for us, what motherhood means to us. Let’s face it, humanity has always had mothers and motherhood and will certainly continue without a day celebrating them. Mother’s Day is simply a way for us all to tell mothers everywhere that we recognise that while they are a common occurrence, motherhood is by no means a mundane part of our society.

So too with IP Day.

We keep secrets from one another and we brand our information as confidential. Every day we see ownership and confidentiality disclaimers. Our emails profess that all information belongs to our employers and those we receive belong to the sender’s employers. We have IP and privacy woven into the very fabric of our business society. Like mothers, IP is a core part of everyone’s lives – only we don’t generally choose to acknowledge anything but the biggest and brightest ideas.

The biggest single issue with IP is that most companies don’t actually know what knowledge they are sitting on.

Take email for example- it is a phenomenal source of knowledge. So much business communication use email, whose conversations provide a rich contextual background to any single piece of data it contains. Who sent it, what was said, what versions went where, when- the real context.

But the problem is that email is stored and archived in places where data goes to die. Ok, maybe not to die, but archives conjure up images of old musty shelving in the basement that is only ever accessed when there is some or other legal dispute that requires old information to be collected and brought back into the light. This is also true of vaults, places to lock information away, places that ensure no-one gets any value from your data for all time.

This is one of the big problems we’re working to solve at Mimecast. Giving us your email is going to make it more useful, not less in the future.

Imagine if a little bit of awareness enlightened your staff and let them know that everything they do adds a little to the wealth of your company. Imagine if they recognized how valuable information actually is. Imagine the potential you would unlock if you could mine and analyse the data you have been storing for all these years.

So celebrate World IP Day in style, let your people know that while you may not have the analytics tools to automatically derive value from your unstructured data, you value the information they produce for you and would love to hear from them how best to surface more value. Information is there to be used, not stored in some dusty basement only to be called for in emergencies.

After all, you don’t only bring your mother out once a year do you? She is there every day adding value to the lives of those around her.  Treat your information like you would your mother, let it thrive and add value to your life every day.

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Email archiving: To delete or not to delete?

Following TechCrunch’s recent post ‘The Only Reason Companies Delete Emails Is To Destroy Evidence’, I joined many commentators discussing the various reasons why businesses might (or should) delete or archive their email in light of the News Corp revelations. Whereas it used to be time consuming and costly to retain emails, primarily due to the cost of storage, today no such constraints exist.  In fact, there is no longer any technical reason whatsoever to delete email. Interestingly, corporate tendencies seem to differ across the pond: I have found that Americans delete, whereas Europeans hoard.

Email archiving, in particular, used to be expensive and hard to do well – specially for organisations the size of News Corp. Customers had to buy horrendously expensive systems and pay exorbitant maintenance to keep them going. So it’s not surprising that companies opted for the safest, cheapest and easiest way to manage this problem: deletion. However, this problematic solution is no longer necessary now there are low-cost, seamless archiving solutions for business email.

TechCrunch’s post does, however, point out how useful it can be to have certain communications saved, particularly when retrieval of a conversation is required in the pursuit of justice:

“The News Corp. phone-hacking scandal continues to spiral out of control […] A paper copy of a deleted email found in a crate ties deputy COO James Murdoch directly to the events under investigation.”

Clearly, archiving is crucial in order to maintain transparency within a business. So it’s really more a question of “Should emails be deleted at all?”

With an email archive where you are storing the only copy of the email, you can ensure an email is permanently deleted instead of residing in hundreds of places on the LAN. But how do you decide what to delete and when? On the one hand, companies are often fearful of compliance (like HIPAA, SOX or FSA) or they can be afraid of litigation.

Key to TechCrunch’s post, which commentators seem to forget, is the rules around retention. In the US, for example:

“[if] you can reasonably anticipate legal action on these emails then you are bound by FRCP to hold those documents in anticipation of a possible discovery. Destruction of emails once you know a legal hold is necessary could expose an organization (public or private) to court sanctions for spoliation.”

It’s a fine line to tread, but there is a way forward with well-designed retention policies.

In addition, we see completely different attitudes on the two sides of the Atlantic: in the US, there is a desire to delete everything as quickly as possible to reduce discovery costs and potential litigation. Whereas, in Europe we are much more likely to see a “keep everything” attitude.

As archiving improves, surely there is a legitimate reason to keep everything if you can reduce the discovery costs and avoid these issues, because — certainly, in News Corp.’s case — the deletion seems over-zealous.

Customers of Mimecast don’t have to pay exorbitant fees or suffer bad infrastructure to retain everything they want to, because they outsource it to the Cloud. Those  who want to implement deletion policies can do the same; ensuring the right information is deleted at the right time and removing human error from the process.

 Photo CC via Mrs TeePot and Dolescum on Flickr

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4 Steps to Defensibility: Using an Email Archive

eDiscovery and general litigation readiness were the third major drivers to the Email Archiving industry.  The first two were Exchange/mailbox management and regulatory compliance for SEC/NASD compliance.

The archive held much promise because it proffered a way to minimize the pain that organizations were feeling around the preservation, collection and production of email.  If deployed and configured correctly, it would provide several benefits, most notable the ability to search ONE location for email. (more…)