Today, it takes more than good intentions to keep e-mail systems running at peak performance. Even with all the advances in technologies for sharing information, e-mail remains a vital business tool in most organizations. Making sure e-mail systems run optimally is critical not only because of its inherent importance to your business, but also because of its visibility. E-mail problems affect everyone. And when things go wrong, no one wants to take the blame.

E-mail systems have grown progressively more reliable. However, a variety of factors, including heavy periods of use, continue to stress even the best installations. Problems can arise on both servers and client systems; for example, e-mail clients can experience a slowdown when an individual stretches them to the breaking point, which typically is when they have about 10,000 items in their folders.

Here are the top five e-mail problems organizations may encounter:

1. Storage management. The first thing to think about when it comes to e-mail reliability is storage management. Along with storage limits, companies should look at implementing policies that cull e-mail periodically to free up space. For example, a policy that filters out deleted e-mail older than 90 days and purges them can keep things running smoothly.

2. Mailbox limits. To apply some control at the server level, organizations should have IT policies that set limits on the size of a mailbox. This makes sure users to clean out folders after their mailbox has reached a certain threshold.

3. Archiving products. Third-party archiving products provide a place to store infrequently referenced e-mails. IT managers will still see the e-mail and can access it by clicking on it. However, the e-mail is no longer stored on the computer.

4. Content management. Many law firms and other organizations with stringent record-keeping requirements use document management or content management systems to store e-mail. Those systems typically provide searchable and indexed retrieval systems. Although native archiving capability can do this, too, document and content management systems offer the ability to associate e-mails with specific clients and retrieve e-mails with other documents. This capability is useful in court cases or financial transactions, when documentation requirements are strict.

5. Gateway limits. Limiting the size of e-mails at the Internet gateway can reduce the influx of large personal files, such as family photo albums that circulate among work friends. However, companies can risk missing client critical e-mails that happen to exceed a given size limit.

Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 [LINK HERE: http://www.microsoft.com/exchange/2007/default.mspx] offers a number of features that can help with e-mail management. For example, you can set up policy-driven e-mails so that messages from certain individuals, such as former employees, might be blocked. Another option: you could specify that communications from clients only go to certain people.

Beyond the above issues, of course, challenges such as junk e-mail and viruses continue to haunt e-mail systems and affect performance and user productivity. Organizations have to address those concerns separately - within the context of an overall security strategy.

Related articles:
* Managing e-mail madness