The report, sponsored by data-storage software company Veritas Software, also found "alarming deficiencies" in e-mail system management and backup and recovery methods.
According to the study, 4 percent of IT managers said that when unplanned downtime in e-mail systems occurs, it takes less than an hour to restore. Fifteen percent said it takes an hour, and 41 percent said it takes more than an hour to get the entire system up and running--including 9 percent who said it takes 24 hours or more. Thirty-nine percent did not know how long it would take to restore their e-mail systems.
"E-mail has become far more than a communication tool, placing a huge responsibility on organizations to ensure that e-mail is always available," said Mark Bregman, Veritas' executive vice president for product operations. "When IT managers fail to keep the systems running, they inhibit the ability of the entire organization to conduct business."
Research firm Dynamic Markets conducted the study, which polled 850 IT managers in corporations across the United States, Europe, the Middle East and South Africa.
Earlier this month, research firm The Radicati Group released a study saying e-mail archiving is either very or somewhat important to 86 percent of companies, but only 37 percent have a formal e-mail archiving policy in place. The group said e-mail archiving regulations, along with companies' fear of lawsuits, are pushing the need to archive. The market for e-mail archiving is expected to reach more than $164 million by the end of 2003, and grow to $1.4 billion by 2007, according to Radicati.
Veritas' report found that although 99 percent of companies said they back up e-mail and attachments, 56 percent have at least some of their e-mail locations excluded from automated backup. And although 39 percent of respondents thought e-mail could be used as legal evidence for or against their company, 46 percent said it would be difficult to locate and retrieve a particular e-mail on the system if it was requested.
Ninety-two percent of the organizations surveyed claimed to have the ability to recover e-mail, but only 18 percent said they could recover e-mail that was more than a year old. Thirty percent said they could recover e-mail only one month back, and 11 percent said one week was as far back as they could go.
Keeping e-mail systems running is stressful for IT managers, according to the study. Properly functioning e-mail systems are so critical that 68 percent of companies said people get irate within as little as 30 minutes when they have no e-mail access. Within just 24 hours of e-mail system failure, almost one-fifth of IT managers said their jobs would be on the line. And the study found that for 34 percent of chief information officers and IT managers, a week without a working corporate e-mail system would be more traumatic than events such as a minor car accident, moving to a new home, or getting married or divorced.