E-mail growth hogs enterprise resources

Now that most enterprises appear to have dispatched the Y2K bug, they may want to concentrate on a couple of other pesky critters that have the potential to chew through the storage resources and bandwidth dedicated to corporate e-mail.

Ferris Research, in a report released earlier this month, says an increase in the volume of messages per user and in the size of those messages over the next 12 months could catch companies off guard and overload their network bandwidth and storage capacity.

Users say they are noticing the trend, but downplay the chance of e-mail loads overwhelming their network resources.

The research shows that the average number of messages received by end users is expected to jump 81 percent to 34 per day in the next year. In that same time frame, the average size of a message is expected to increase 192 percent to 286K bytes.

"People treat e-mail like it's UPS, putting attachments on everything," says John Cebuly, network analyst for Ceridian Employer Services in Minneapolis. "It's a good possibility we could see this kind of growth over the next 12 months - users will get away with anything they can." Cebuly recently discovered a user on his mail system with 3G bytes of stored data.

He is not worried, however, about being overwhelmed by a spike in the number of e-mails. Ceridian has overprovisioned for storage and has enough bandwidth to make it a nonissue, he says.

But David Ferris, president of Ferris Research, says e-mail administrators in the next year should increase bandwidth allotments by 3 percent to 5 percent, and storage should be more than doubled.

The Ferris research focused on 24 large enterprises and government agencies, including Alcoa, Bank One, Nabisco, Texas Instruments, the US Federal Aviation Administration, the government of British Columbia and Unilever.

Ferris says volume is increasing just by the fact that more people are using e-mail, and message size is exploding due to the attachment of images.

There are nearly 170 million corporate e-mailboxes worldwide, more than three times the number of mailboxes just five years ago, according to Eric Arnum, editor of "Messaging Online," a Web-based newsletter. That is only a slice of the approximately 440 million corporate and personal mailboxes worldwide, a number that is rising sharply because of the advent of free e-mail services.

"With the Internet going nuts and people communicating virtually instead of face to face, the number of messages is going way up," says Durwin Sharp, e-commerce advisor for Exxon. Sharp thinks the need for more bandwidth will be much greater than Ferris predicts, but that storage needs will be much lower.

"We've been seeing a steady rise in the need for both and have been doing some things to combat it," he says. Exxon has been steadily increasing its storage capacity and bandwidth over each of the past few years.

Ferris says enterprises should be proactive and put monitoring tools in place to plot future needs: "It's time for people to start watching their messaging environments very closely."

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