With its early embrace of Linux and its highly reliable online banking site, KeyBank NA is among the most efficient, cutting-edge banks in the US when it comes to IT -- but not when it came to retrieving old e-mails for compliance.
When Al Coppolo was asked by lawyers at the KeyCorp operating unit to produce old e-mails for litigation or regulatory compliance, he would have as many as four members of his IT team trudge to an off-site storage facility to retrieve tapes, mount them on servers and painstakingly search for the requested messages.
"It was a completely manual environment," said Coppolo, executive vice president and director of infrastructure at KeyBank.
"Sometimes we would have to look through copies of the same e-mail on multiple tapes if there were multiple replies," he added.
The process was so laborious and time-consuming that his team just barely met a 30-day internal deadline for producing e-mails.
And, Coppolo noted, the number of legal requests was only growing.
Moreover, in December new federal e-discovery rules went into effect that spell out requirements for submitting electronic documents as evidence in civil court cases.
There are several technology alternatives available to companies looking for help. KeyBank opted for a full-blown archiving and content management system from AXS-One, installing the software late last year to support a 300TB e-mail archive.
The bank bought AXS-One's namesake software from Sun Microsystems as part of a compliance and content management product bundle.
AXS-One can manage both e-mail and instant messages, and it captures a copy of each message that is sent or received.
To give users one-click access to old messages, it creates message "stubs" in their e-mail directories.
Coppolo said the tools are working well enough that he hopes to eventually train KeyBank's legal team to use AXS-One in order to free up his IT staffers for other tasks.
The increased need for companies to be able to produce electronic evidence is "a pretty serious issue," said Michael Osterman, an analyst at Osterman Research.
And many companies don't appear to be ready to comply with the e-discovery rules. For example, in a survey conducted by Computerworld last year, 32 percent of the 170 IT managers and staffers who responded said their companies weren't at all prepared to meet the new requirements.
Archiving systems such as AXS-One are good for large companies with e-mail indexes that bulge out to "Google-like sizes," Osterman said.
A less-costly alternative, he noted, is to add search and retrieval software to existing e-mail servers.
A third route is to swap out one of the first-tier mail servers for a less expensive product with more built-in search and storage features.