For as long as email has been around it has presented everyone with a headache. How can you manage a database when people are the administrators of it?
It may not seem like it, but any email program is a rich database of details. As they get larger and more used, they slow down and eventually crash. I have worked with people who have incredible Outlook databases in which they may manage six different people’s information. This is a recipe for disaster.
I was asked to help someone who said that her Outlook wasn’t opening. I took at look at her data file for Outlook and it said it was 35 GB. A normal outlook data file is 3GB so this was more than 10 times the normal and Microsoft recommended size. Microsoft says that Outlook can go up to 100GB which is ridiculous because people start having problems with performance and reliability after 25GB. I had several customers who choose to have Outlook databases of 30GB and larger and they always had issues. Even with top of the line mac computers or top of the line PC computers, they would crash, have slowness and other issues.
Whenever I see problems like this I ask people to delete emails. The answer I always get is “I have to save it because it might be important.” Sounds reasonable right? Well it is not reasonable when the result of that policy means that email is not stable. Everything has a limit, and systems are not capable of infinity managing data of huge sizes. Yes, I hear the lawyers speak out “There are legal reasons to keep email.” Fine yes, there are, but there have to be limits on that as well, and no one needs 15 years of email correspondence at their fingertips in Outlook.
There are systems both provided by Microsoft and 3rd party that allow you to archive email and search for it by going to a specially designed webpage. These are fantastic solutions. The simple fact is that when you attempt on a computer to maintain a huge index of information you are simply asking for trouble. It isn’t worth the pain, the time, the expense lost when it is a simple matter to use an archiving system for this.
I see over and over in business and consumers that they do what is easy, rather than what is secure and best long-term. The best solution is to not put yourself in a situation where there is one point of failure. Listen, even if you could make email reliable on your computer, do you really want that much data only at one place? If your computer was lost or stolen, how would you recover? Would you really be able to copy a 30 GB file in any reasonable period of time to restore what you had? You have to think of computers as a menu of things that you might reasonably use, not as an oracle that has every answer instantly available. Yes, the email archive might require logging into a separate webpage and doing a search, but isn’t that a reasonable trade-off? I think it is.