That is the question. Well, it's a question. And the answer is a rather large: TO SAVE, DUMMY.
Yesterday our colleagues at Computerworlduk.com reported that the interminable antitrust battle between AMD and Intel is set to drag on even longer. Some of Intel's email messages relating to the case should have been saved and produced for evidence, and they were not.
The company says that none of the missing messages was particularly relevant, and that the losses represent only a tiny proportion of the required evidence.
Apparently the Intel executives deleted the email messages because they thought email was automatically backed up by the company. And as my old man always says: 'you know what Thought did?'
(For those that don't, Thought thought he saw his toes sticking out of the end of his bed so he got up to check. Repeatedly. Even in comparison to other characters in old wives' tales, Thought was a div.)
Now I've always worked on the basis that when it comes to business email, Big Brother is most definitely watching. I wouldn't write anything I didn't want my bosses to read (great job by the way guys). But I also make sure I keep anything I need to, and I'm only too aware of the dangers of over-reliance on backups. ('The press week the server melted' lives long in my memory, that of our IT support team - hi Geoff - and those of everyone within a square mile of me at the time.)
In my line of work it's important to have a record of what people have said to you and when. And I wouldn't expect to rely on a company backup to retain such information - it's my job to protect mine and PC Advisor's good name.
Email is an extremely trackable medium, and it can be a very useful record of all kinds of things. I know of salespeople who conclude big-money deals with no more fanfare than getting their client to agree terms over email. After all, the contract is in writing. But the successful ones assure me that such messages are saved locally and remotely, and then immediately forwarded on to the accounts department to be followed up with an invoice.
Email is the source of a great deal of work for lawyers everywhere. But if you've ever dealt with a member of the legal profession, you'll know that they conduct most of their business on paper.