May 29, 2009

Microsoft Exchange 2010 Adds E-Mail Archiving & Limited E-Discovery-Friendly Features

According to InformationWeek, the next version of Microsoft's e-mail server, Exchange 2010, "will include integrated archiving and multi-mailbox search capabilities at no extra cost, making it easier for companies to, for example, comply with e-discovery requirements. But Microsoft will have to be careful not to alienate third-party archiving vendors such as Symantec and Quest."

"Until this version of Exchange, companies seeking to archive their e-mail centrally have had to rely on third-party software. That costly proposition has hurt adoption, and according to Osterman Research, only 28% of companies currently have central e-mail archives."

From this report, Exchange 2010 will also include the ability to view e-mail discussion threads, and a button to ignore those threads.  It will also feature speech-to-text transcription of voicemails, something that lawyers have struggled with in advising companies who wanted to implement more convenient services such as universal messaging, where voicemails get sent to your inbox.

Another interesting Exchange 2010 feature for legal departments:

"There's also new role-based administration, which means that Exchange administrators can delegate responsibility for some non-IT tasks to non-IT workers. For example, human resources managers could update employee information, the legal department could handle e-discovery and audits, and employees could create their own distribution lists." (emphasis added)

However, don't get overly excited at these new developments, at least not yet.  Microsoft has a long history of working in and dumbing down features from competitors' offerings.  The mimicked features often haven't had nearly the same range or depth as a competitor's fuller offering.  However, in some cases, companies have recognized that it was "good enough" for their immediate needs and later purchased additional capabilities from other solution providers to fill the gaps as they were identified.

A hat tip to ARMA for their post pointing this out: "Analysts note that Exchange 2010 will not provide such advanced features as content analytics and archiving of multiple content types commonly found in higher-end products geared toward e-discovery." (emphasis added)

Thus a key question will be: What will cash-strapped organizations lacking e-mail archiving systems opt for in their next round of e-mail management purchase decisions?  Some might start off with Exchange 2010 to see if it's "good enough", particularly if their eDiscovery needs are relatively light.  E-mail archiving vendors may also need to step up their game by offering enhanced value-added tools such as advance search, deeper and more robust content analytics, and handling of diverse content types, as well as making it easier to identify and export data to other downstream eDiscovery systems for processing, analysis, review, and production.

I tend to think that organizations with more diverse, complex, and/or higher volume discovery tasks will still need additional tools and services than simply Exchange 2010.  But it's good to see that Microsoft is recognizing the shifting role that e-mail is playing in organizations' compliance, discovery, and risk management programs and beginning to add more data management features.

Exchange 2010 is coming right around the corner, per InformationWeek: "The company plans to release Exchange Server 2010 in the second half of this year. The rest of Office is due in the first half of 2010, with limited test releases beginning the third quarter of this year. Outlook 2010 will come as part of the rest of the Office suite, though it's unclear when the next version of Outlook Mobile will be available."

Topic(s):   Electronic Discovery  |  Legal Technology
Posted by Jeff Beard