Reliable e-mail and document archiving in IBM Lotus Notes and Domino
Compliantly stemming the flood of information
Online or offline, the flood of information seems to reach new heights every day. In view of overflowing mailboxes and the vast number of documents that accumulate, it’s becoming more and more difficult to decide “What must we save?” and “What can we get rid of?” not just in our personal lives, but in the world of business in particular. In this regard, customers are faced with two challenges: On the one hand, they’re supposed to archive all the standard documents for eventual internal and external purposes. On the other hand, they’re under tremendous pressure to identify and retain the proper records in a manner that complies with the statutory regulations stipulated in the principles of data access and auditing of digital documents, better known in Germany as the GDPdU, in the event such documents have to be used in court or during financial and official audits. Still, the question remains: What do we really need and what can be deleted? Despite ever-increasing hardware resources, electronic storage space in businesses is limited and expensive. If, however, you can archive old, unneeded e-mails, you’ll gain free space and the IT department won’t have to keep reminding people to delete content. In short, what’s needed is a database-based platform that can handle a flood of information for which the subject of archiving would play an important role. Software that extends IBM Lotus Notes e-mails with relevant documents and requires only a few clicks to file these in accordance with statutory requirements and store them at a recognized level of audit compliance should provide the answer to this problem.
Electronic mail is now a part of the everyday business world. Most companies automatically generate inquiries, offers, orders, invoices and a wealth of other documents that are then sent by e-mail. According to the GDPdU principles of data access and auditing of digital documents, e-mails are among those business records which must now be retained. Implementing an e-mail archiving program is a sizeable task in which numerous problems can arise. The rationale for the archiving of documents set forth in § 147 German Tax Code (AO) can be found in these very same GDPdU rules. According to these principles, records of tax relevance must be kept available and deliverable in a manner that is machine readable. This means that when a company receives an order, all the documents associated with the order – be these the purchase request, the order confirmation or the delivery note – must be retained electronically and in an unalterable form so that they can be retrieved and relied upon during a tax audit or be submitted as evidence in court. The GDPdU principles are not the only things that are forcing businesses to take action: Germany’s Tax Code and Commercial Code (HGB), along with regulations such as Solvency II and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act must be taken into account when archiving as well. Prior to any archiving, each company should decide for itself which records actually are required to be stored in the archives. Businesses should determine if archiving the documents is essential for their internal work and/or if such archiving must comply with external requirements – such as for use in court cases – and therefore have to maintain the inalterability of the documents over time. The issue of private electronic mail correspondence is steadily gaining in importance, especially in light of the fact that personal e-mails may not be archived. So, how do you proceed when business mails contain personal content? After all, some e-mails may and others must be saved. There are also mails that must not be stored under any circumstances, namely your employees’ personal e-mails. If companies tolerate the use of computers and mail servers for personal e-mails, then according to the law, these companies are considered to be providers of telecommunications services. Accordingly, these companies are prohibited from monitoring or storing such e-mail communications if the affected employees have not granted their explicit consent to do so. Left to themselves to make such decisions, businesses often find that mails get lost because their content was considered to be of no consequence, when in reality what they contained was of significant importance. Should businesses save all the data or take the time to decide what to save on a case-by-case basis? What should your IT landscape look like in general in order to save your organization’s e-mails and documents with minimum expense and effort?
Limited out-of-the-box solution for IBM Lotus Notes
IBM Lotus Notes is a database-based platform on which, in addition to pure e-mail functionality, customers can also handle, edit and file all their business documents and transactions. However, this platform is facing ever-increasing expectations from users. Senior management informs the departments about the statutory guidelines and criteria for data archiving, and the departments must then ensure that documents are stored in a compliant manner. Unfortunately, Notes has only a limited number of tools to support this task. What’s missing are out-of-the-box solutions that can help managers decide such things as what data must be converted to PDFs, burned onto CDs, or stored in some other manner. The PDF format has become an indispensable part of the here and now, and has established itself as both the de facto and an ISO standard. To date lawmakers have put forth no guidance as to the formats that must be used for compliant archiving now or in 10 years time, and have left the choice of format up to each business. Over the years, IT departments have come to recognize PDF/A (A = archiving) as the trusted format. The PDF/A standard helps ensure that users can reliably reproduce their documents over long periods of time. In the absence of any judicial or legislative precedents, PDF will continue to be the most commonly used format for archiving.
Archive in just a few clicks
Software solutions that make a transparent workflow out of what used to be multiple and often manual work steps, while simultaneously freeing up resources for more important tasks, can support businesses in doing legally compliant archiving. SoftVision, for example, closes the open flanks of IBM Lotus Notes and supplements the platform with essential tools that allow you to extract data from IBM Lotus Notes and convert them to PDFs that maintain their original integrity and authenticity. The n2pdf software is a complete solution package specially developed for integration in Notes applications that allows for the structured conversion of complex Notes documents and databases, such as manuals, product catalogs and documentations, into the acknowledged PDF format. At the click of a button, this software enables users to generate complex PDF files that include all the familiar and functional Notes navigation elements, such as references to documents, views and databases. The structures contained in Notes are retained and complemented with useful features, such as a table of contents. Whether multiple pages or selected parts of documents, this software lets you merge and combine the widest possible range of files. Even e-mails can be converted to PDFs.
Helps make tax and business audits trouble free
When is e-mail archiving compliant with auditing requirements? When the archiving system fulfills Germany’s statutory criteria (§§ 239, 257 Commercial Code and §§ 146, 147 Tax Code) for being unalterable, containing no gaps, complete, comprehensible and machine readable. The information must also be able to be stored for at least 10 years. PDF-related settings, such as for security and encryption, can be made manually by users or assinged automatically on the centralized server – all before n2pdf creates a PDF file from the compiled content. This software can easily convert file attachments as well. n2pdf’s native converters can also incorporate an extensive range of other formats within the PDF file even when the original host application is not available. All of this is managed using that well-known and proven IBM Lotus Script technology or Java. Businesses can now centrally save and store all their correspondence in a manner that makes it easy to find and retrieve, and helps them pass tax and financial audits with flying colors.