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Possible problems with attachment management

Mar 02, 20042 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMessaging Apps

* Three potential pitfalls of attachment management systems

The notion of “attachment management” systems is receiving more attention these days – but there could be pitfalls.

At their most basic, these systems strip attachments out of e-mail and store them separately from the messaging system so that only a single instance of an attachment is contained in the message store. The primary benefits of such systems are reduced e-mail traffic and lower storage requirements because of the smaller bulk of e-mail sent through the system.

There are three potential difficulties with attachment management (pointed out to me by a seller of archiving products), particularly for users in heavily regulated industries like financial services:

* An attachment’s loss of context with the e-mail that contained it. For example, if an e-mail message references the attachment, the sender might have included some explanatory text about the content of the attachment. If an attachment was found during the discovery phase of a lawsuit, it might be taken out of context because of the lack of the accompanying explanation.

* Loss of protection during legal action. The closer an e-mail message can be maintained in its original form (attachment and all), the stronger that a court could find its credibility as evidence in a lawsuit.

* Loss of the actual link between e-mail and attachments. What happens if the link that references the attachment in the original e-mail is somehow damaged or lost and there is no way to determine which attachment was referenced in that e-mail?

While these problems might apply more to industries that face intense scrutiny from regulators like the Securities and Exchange Commission, the potential for difficulties exist in other industries in which companies archive their content for storage management purposes or that archive their messaging system content as protection against future legal actions.

It’s important to note that the above should not necessarily be construed as an argument against attachment management, since the technology provides the advantage of being able to dramatically reduce the level of traffic and storage in a messaging system. However, I wanted to raise the issues, since they should be a consideration for those considering attachment management as a method of improving their messaging infrastructures.

I’d like to get your thoughts on this issue, as well as on the larger issue of attachment in general (or is it a non-issue for you)? Please drop me a line at