Email Archive Management

Published in October 2002

Every day thousands of email messages are created as part of a company’s business operations. Organizations find that email clogs computer networks and demands increasing amounts of their
employee’s time. Email is growing exponentially, and as a result, vast quantities of email reside on network servers, PC hard drives, backup tapes, and other mass storage devices located in
corporate information systems. The mounting volume of email, which in many cases must be archived, is the number one corporate storage hog.

Email also constitutes a “corporate memory” of how an organization conducts its business – evidence of corporate decisions and behavior. Email messages are testimony to an organization’s
functions, activities and transactions. Recent headlines draw attention to the role of email in the Microsoft antitrust trial and the multi-billion dollar settlement in the “fen-phen” diet drug
case. Ask any corporate counsel what one worry keeps him or her awake at night and the likely culprit is the multitude of email messages stored throughout their enterprise. Email represents a
growing and elusive risk in litigation, so understanding exactly what your corporate email says and exactly where it is stored is critical.

A great deal of “corporate knowledge” takes form in electronic mail. Nearly all organizations depend on email to conduct business, yet very few regard email as an important corporate asset.
Mining the value of email requires a well-thought archive strategy. Email records can easily be destroyed or lost due to hardware failures and routine clean up, leaving behind only fragmented
traces of the corporate knowledge contained within. Archiving and restoring email requires costly administration that is often inadequate, and takes a toll on employee productivity. And when a
virus strikes the losses can be staggering, as was the impact of the “I Love You” virus in May 2000.

It is now axiomatic that the World Wide Web will expand the dimensions of human communication and that the Internet will shape new markets. The emerging issue, however, is email.

Despite the expansive aspects of email, electronic
messaging systems do very little to help users manage
their vast and dynamic stores of corporate email.

Despite the expansive aspects of email communication, electronic messaging systems do very little to help users manage their vast and dynamic stores of corporate email. The first part of this paper
attempts to demonstrate the escalating growth of email, the risks associated with this corporate information, and the knowledge value contained within ever-growing corporate email stores. The
second part of this paper provides a matrix of desirable features and explores some fundamental issues to consider when selecting an email archive system. In the end, it is the hope of this author
that you will be better prepared to make informed decisions and form beneficial strategic plans with regard to your corporate email environment.

The Growth of Email

The growth of email use is phenomenal. Whatever watermark you use to measure the advance, this fact is clear: Email dominates the swelling tide of digital information – a tsunami of
e-information that floods nearly every aspect of doing business and has begun to saturate corporate information storage systems.

Indeed, email has become so commonplace that it is hard to imagine getting along without it. This year, Americans will send and receive well over 6.8 trillion email messages – approximately
2.2 billion messages each day – compared with just 293 million pieces of first class mail.
(1) Roughly two thirds of all American workers use email as part of their daily routine
(2) and the average office worker will send and receive between 60 and 200 email messages each day.
(3) Microsoft, for example, processes more than 3 million email messages every day.
(4) The convenience of email has an infectious appeal, and people are spending more and more time sending, receiving and storing email. Workers polled this year by the Gartner
Group, a leading e-market research firm, spent an average of 49 minutes a day on email, 30 to 35 percent more time than they did a year ago. Ferris Research estimates that management level workers
will spend four hours a day working with email by 2002. Today, many of Intel’s 88,000 workers spend up to 2 ½ hours a day on email.
(5) Email is not just an American phenomenon, however. Traffic is growing even more rapidly around the world. The number of email addresses worldwide increased 84 percent in 1999
alone, with the segment located outside the U.S. leading the way with triple-digit growth.
(6) Today, over 225 million people worldwide can send and receive email,
(7) and predictions are that an astounding 750 million email addresses will exist around the globe by 2005.


The World Wide Web often grabs the headlines, but the fact is that there is 500 times more email created every year than the stock of Web pages (in terabytes). (9) Although a
portion of this email is sent and received by individuals, most of the traffic travels via corporate email servers.

Email Size on the Rise

While email use is growing exponentially, the size of email (i.e., bytes) is increasing as well. In the early 1990’s, most email messages were between 1Kb and 3Kb in size, but the size of a
typical email today (without an attachment) is around 5Kb. A decade ago file attachments were rare, but today over 20 percent of email comes with an attachment. Graphics, spreadsheets and Word
documents frequently accompany email messages. As a result, email with attachments average around 100Kb currently.
(10) Analysts predict that the size of email and attachments will grow at a rate of 35 percent per year.
(11) Because of this byte-sized trend, email has spawned a boom in the digital archiving business. Analysts estimate that the demand for digital storage will grow by more than
1,800 percent between 1998 and 2003. Customers will pay dearly for this digital storage space. Spending on managed storage services, a mere $11 million in 1999, is anticipated to grow to $4.8
billion by 2003.
(12) Revenues at EMC, the leading provider of digital storage, have increased well beyond forecasts. Their net income grew by over 50 percent in 1999.
(13) Increasing volumes of email are the cash cow in EMC storage farms.

To combat the ever-growing demand on server storage, system administrators often limit the allotted size of their users email store. Today, the median size of a message store allotted to a typical
corporate user is 45Mb. (14) If we assume that a typical user sends and receives 70 messages per day (at 5Kb) and 20 percent of those
messages have attachments (at 100Kb), then our user generates a total of 1.75Mb of email traffic per day. If all of this data were kept in his message store, our user would exceed his allotted
storage space in just over 25 days.

Users get around this limitation by storing email in multiple places (often multiple times). Email takes up residence in a hodge-podge of hard drives, disk drives, tape drives, laser disks, compact
disks and network servers of all sizes and types. A midrange estimate of the amount of data currently stored on magnetic tape is 2.5 exabytes (an exabytes is 1 million terabytes) with another 2.5
exabytes stored on computer hard drives.
(15) Analysts estimate that 30 percent of stored email records and their attachments can be eliminated because they are redundant copies.

Email Administration on the Rise

The quantity and size of email is growing beyond the ability of many organizations to effectively administer it. One study found that out of 926 organizations surveyed, 97 percent said that their
email stores had grown faster than predicted. Nearly three-quarters had growth in excess of 50 percent, and a majority said that email backups consistently run into production periods. In 67
percent of the companies surveyed, restoring lost email for a single user takes over 24 hours to complete.
(17) The cost of email administration, therefore, is a growing concern. On average, an organization will spend nearly $200 per user each year to locate and retrieve information
from backup tapes. When considering lost user productivity, revenue loss and administration and management costs, companies spend more on this problem than for all technical support and help desk
(18) In short, email messages are growing in quantity and contain increasing amounts of information. The time that employees spend using email is on the rise and more time and
money is spent than ever before in attempts to manage the ever-growing tide of email.


Electronic messaging systems were designed to provide fast, efficient communications. Email gives us the ability to easily communicate with instant and reliable delivery and universal access. The
trouble is that none of the many redeeming facets of electronic messaging tackle the demands associated with the management, archive and retrieval of email messages. As email grows in both volume
and complexity, this gap in design presents increased liability and risk to most corporations.

Editors Note: This article was adapted from the white paper “The Strategic Importance of Email Archive Management.” In this 13-page study the issues of litigation risk and knowledge
management are also explored, and the paper examines the desired features and functionality of an enterprise email archive system. The full-length white paper is available at


  1. U.S. News & World Report, March 22, 1999
  2. Approximately 89 million, according to Messaging Online.
  3. Business Week, July 20, 1998
  4. Windows Magazine, May 1999
  5. USA Today, June 26, 2001
  6. Messaging Online
  7. Newsweek, September 20, 1999
  8. International Data Corporation, July 1999
  9. University of Berkley, School of Info Mgmt/Systems, Oct 2000,
  10. Creative Networks, Inc. February 1999.
  11. Inside Gartner Group, December 8, 1999
  12. International Data Corporation. InternetWeek, April 24, 2000
  13. See:
  14. Creative Networks
  15. University of Berkley
  16. kVault Software.
  17. EducomTS Inc.
  18. Creative Networks
© 2002 Kevin Craine – All rights reserved

Share this post

Kevin Craine

Kevin Craine

Kevin Craine is a professional writer, technology analyst, and award-winning podcast producer. He was named the #1 Enterprise Content Management Influencer to follow on Twitter and has listeners and readers worldwide. Kevin creates strategic content for the web, marketing, social media, and more. He is the written voice for many of the world's leading brands. His client list includes many well-known global leaders. In addition, he is a content strategist for AIIM International. Kevin's podcasts have been heard around the world, and his interviews feature today's best thought leaders; including the award-winning weekly business show "Everyday MBA". He is also the host and producer of "Bizcast"​ on C-Suite Radio and the producer behind podcasts for Forbes, AIIM International, Tripwire, and others. His newest podcast, The Digital Transformation Podcast, was named a Top 5 Podcast for Digital Transformation. Prior to starting Craine Communications Group, Kevin was Director of Document Services for Regence BlueCross BlueShield where he managed high volume document processing operations in Seattle, Portland and Salt Lake City. He also spent time at IKON as an Enterprise Content Management consultant working with national and major accounts. He was the founding editor of Document Strategy magazine. Kevin has also been, at one point or another, an adjunct university professor, a black belt martial artist, and a professional guitarist. Kevin holds an MBA in the Management of Science and Technology as well as a BA in Communications and Marketing.

scroll to top
We use technologies such as cookies to understand how you use our site and to provide a better user experience. This includes personalizing content, using analytics and improving site operations. We may share your information about your use of our site with third parties in accordance with our Privacy Policy. You can change your cookie settings as described here at any time, but parts of our site may not function correctly without them. By continuing to use our site, you agree that we can save cookies on your device, unless you have disabled cookies.
I Accept