Who actually has time to manage their e-mail?

I come from a long line of hoarders. Nobody, even in my extended family, could ever contemplate living a minimalist lifestyle. My attic is full of empty boxes, many for appliances I no longer own. Similarly, my e-mail inbox is clogged with years worth of Amazon order acknowledgments (many of which are for the defunct appliances, whose packaging I still retain).

Ever since companies such as Google gave us more room than we could conceivably ever need to store our e-mail online, I’ve been more than happy to accumulate years worth of messages that in all likelihood I will never want nor need again.

But what about corporate e-mail? Surely it’s a good thing to keep as much of this “just incase” it’s needed down the line? Whether it just saves your bacon with your boss, or underpins your organisation’s defence in a lawsuit, keeping work messages is a good idea.

I recently encountered a change in corporate e-mail retention policy that conflicted heavily with my own ways of working, and was (in my view) dangerous and unworkable.

The previous arrangement was a measly 250 MB on an Exchange server, with unlimited capacity to transfer messages to an electronic vault. This made employees happy, because they could keep their e-mails forever, IT happy because the data was stored centrally and backed-up, and the auditors happy because once a message was vaulted, it could not be edited or deleted.

For undisclosed reasons, however, the e-mail retention policy was changed so that each user was given 1 GB on the Exchange server, in which to keep all their e-mails – both old and new. Anything you wanted to keep from the vault would need to be recovered and either kept on the Exchange server or saved to a network or USB drive. The use of PST files was made verboten through the use of a Windows group policy.

Almost every long-serving employee has over 1 GB of e-mails, so clearly retaining them on Exchange isn’t a viable option for most. I have a problem with saving messages outside of Outlook: it’s a massive pain in the arse if you rely on its search, sort and conversation view to manage your e-mail.

Any employee worth their salt should be too busy to wade through tens of thousands of e-mails, and assess the potential future value of each. Storing everything on a memory stick (as recommended by management) is just one lost/stolen thumb-drive away from a nightmare waiting to happen.

What is the solution? VBA and “the cloud” of course! Allione’s MailBase system can securely accommodate an almost limitless amount of e-mail, and with a bit of VBA cleverness Outlook can be made to upload messages to it, either automatically or at the click of a button.

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Colleagues, resume your hoarding!