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Why don't people delete old emails?

Had an interesting discussion the other day with PineApp, a company that builds email archiving systems for SMEs.It was a follow-up from a discussion started by my blog here about whether email archiving wasn't overkill for an SME.
Written by Manek Dubash, Contributor on

Had an interesting discussion the other day with PineApp, a company that builds email archiving systems for SMEs.

It was a follow-up from a discussion started by my blog here about whether email archiving wasn't overkill for an SME. When I met PineApp at a friendly coffee shop (no, not that kind!) in London Bridge, it turns out CEO Rakesh Gupta agrees with me that, yes, it's a luxury (his word).

Yet for PineApp, among others, this is a business that can hardly fail - unless they execute badly - simply because people don't throw away their emails.

As you'll see from the discussion following the previous entry on this matter, the wheeze of implementing an automatic delete-by date for emails and files was floated. A good idea, in my view. If you're a company, set it to seven years - most legislation gives you that long to retain information - and forget it.

At least that would mean your storage demands weren't infinite, as they are in so many organisations, both large and small. It would save money and lift from end users a degree of responsibility for managing their inboxes.

So I floated the idea to Rakesh about training users to use the tools they have. While Microsoft Outlook - sadly, the application most users are saddled with - is hardly the sharpest knife in the box, it does contain some email management tools. Not a lot...

He reckoned that training people to use search and the delete key would be more expensive than buying one of his boxes. Of course he would. And he's probably right.

What it takes is implementation of some simple ground rules. Tell users how much storage costs - not just raw space but managing the stuff. If they would throw away a piece of paper because the information on it is useless, then an email is no different. And ask them if they really need to forward that 5MB attachment to 20 people: save it and send a pointer instead.

It seems to me that it's highly inefficient to buy technology to work around the inability or unwillingness of users to use the tools at their disposal, while spending to upgrade their PCs to the latest OS so they can write (and not delete) their emails just that bit faster.

What am I missing?

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