Email value management

Email isn't email anymore - if it ever wasAs soon as you have more email than you can remember, email is so much more than email. It is a database of your friends, your business, your life.

Email isn't email anymore - if it ever was As soon as you have more email than you can remember, email is so much more than email. It is a database of your friends, your business, your life.

I've used email for 25 years. Yet I never thought about how I used it. Maybe its because I'm now also IM'ing and video chatting - methods with the immediacy that email seemed to have over snail mail - that I'm starting to get it.

Email: your personal metadata generator Email adds value because it adds context - metadata - to raw files and communications. Context that is human readable and human memorable. That fits the relational database in our brains, not our computers. That provides metadata that people use, like names, conversations, topics and words that mean something.

I search Apple Mail at least a dozen times a day by keyword, sent to, sent from and date. I'm much more likely to refer a second time to a document that came in an email rather than downloaded because I can find it.

The real market: Email Value Management But that's just me. I've got a dedicated computer system so I don't have to worry about running out of disk space or a server grinding to a halt under the weight of hundreds of thousands of emails a day.

That is something businesses need to worry about.

Email servers weren't designed to provide email users with the services that users actually want, like infinitely expanding mailboxes and fast search for five year old emails. Nor do they provide the services that managers and owners would like to have, such as all the emails that went to a certain email address or URL and contained attachments.

Hiding their light under a bushel basket The people who can actually do that fall under the general and terribly boring term of "email archiving". Archiving is the Rodney Dangerfield of backup; it is where backup people go when they can't handle the stress of restores anymore.

There are a number of email archiving firms and programs out there, such as Inboxer, Arcmail and the usual add-on archivers from EMC, HP, IBM and so on.

What they have in common is that they think of their market the wrong way. They sell it as insurance - "what if you get sued?" - instead of "how can you maximize email's business value." I can think of several. How about you?

The Storage Bits take When automobiles first came out, they were called "horseless carriages". Technically correct and utterly missing the point. Then "motors" became the operative terms, at least here in the US. (Ever wonder why GM is General Motors instead of General Cars?)

Like email compared to snail mail, the set up and take down time for cars was so much faster, not to mention travel time, that trips could be casual. You could just get up and go. And take the family.

Email is a similar leap. Except the mail paradigm is so powerful we haven't really thought through what it represents and how important it is, both personally and organizationally. Perhaps email archivers can morph into tools for preserving and maximizing that value.

Comments welcome, of course.