Microsoft is experimenting with a potential product that would give companies more control over the electronic messages their staff exchange in order to better meet regulatory requirements and e-discovery laws.
The product, which has been informally dubbed Employee Managed Mailbox (EMM), is being used internally at Microsoft and may eventually turn into a commercial offering, according to Joel Freedman, chief financial officer at Microsoft Canada.
"Instead of email that would be utilising the hard drive, you'd have email that gets managed by a server," he said, adding that a server-based product could help companies do a better job of adhering to compliance-related policies. "You could have a one-month, one-year or three-year limit on retention (of an email message) for example."
Freedman suggested EMM could become a direct way for Microsoft to assist corporations who are struggling to keep up with accounting, privacy and other rules that increasingly govern the way they handle information.
Although some vendors are developing specific tools to match the requirement of the US Sarbanes-Oxley legislation or Canada's Bill 198, many firms, Microsoft included, are making the best of existing office productivity tools to keep themselves out of trouble.
"For most companies, it's Office and email," said Jeff Dunmall, principal with Toronto-based IT consulting firm iMason, which specialises in Microsoft-based technologies. "The problem is if you send out something about a new process via email to five people for comment or approval, you've suddenly got five different versions of that document."