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Loosen the Cap on Employees' In-Boxes

Tight restrictions on e-mail size often just encourage people to work around the limits by sending files outside a company’s control.

Companies can strengthen their computer networks against hacking attacks and data breaches, but their defenses won’t work as well if employees are circumventing them. Yet companies often unintentionally inspire just such behavior by limiting how much e-mail their employees can send, receive, and store.

That’s because employees who face tight limits on the size of their mailboxes tend to merely work around the restrictions. For instance, they might send and receive files through their personal Web mail accounts or through Web file-transfer sites. Using the public Internet could make it more likely for the information to be stolen, and there are consequences beyond hacking, too: once data leaves a company’s control, it can be harder to restore it after a disaster or to find it during audits or lawsuits.

The employees at the Pump Solutions Group used to have strict limits on how much e-mail they could store because ballooning in-boxes required the company to buy, manage, and maintain more mail servers. But the pump manufacturer’s global network manager, Jeff Rountree, has been lightening up on the policy and might get even more generous. He hired a company called Mimecast to handle the e-mail remotely—“in the cloud.” That greatly reduced the need for Rountree to manage e-mail servers, which in turn could reduce the need for 700 of Rountree’s coworkers to worry about the size of their in-boxes. Rountree likes that idea because if employees face no resistance to e-mailing large files, “in the long run, it’s better for us to let them do it and we can monitor it,” he says. “If we don’t let them send it, we wouldn’t know, because they would find some other way to do it.”

Mimecast is one of a growing number of options for companies that want to reduce the headaches of managing e-mail themselves. Many large companies use Google Apps, which also offers ways for companies to archive and otherwise maintain employees’ e-mail. The cost of such cloud services is often a few dollars per employee per month. These services don’t always remove mailbox caps entirely, but the limits are generous: Google’s Gmail for business lets each employee have 25 gigabytes of mail.

Some Mimecast customers give their employees unlimited e-mail. Others, like Rountree, do set limits, because Mimecast routes messages through their local mail servers: Pump Solutions Group employees still get reminders to clear space by deleting old mail. But Rountree is exploring a significant increase in the limits, because Mimecast can reduce the load on the local mail servers by archiving old messages and “stubbing” other e-mails to reduce their file size. “Users wouldn’t even have to worry about it,” he says.

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