If your company is a good corporate citizen and does not wish to run afoul of meddlesome snoops from Washington, you have been archiving every single e-mail that runs through your servers, diligently piling up a database of mostly crap that takes up more disc space than it took to get to the moon and back six times, plus all the preparation. That's not only cumbersome, it's expensive. But under the onerous regulation of Sarbanes-Oxley, you've got to do it or risk some pretty serious fines and, gad-zooks, even jail time for the CEO.
As a builder, you probably have e-mail trails longer than the transcontinental railroad referencing specific architectural, site, or infrastructure plans that may need to be accessed at some point in the future.
Chances are you use Microsoft Outlook to move all this stuff around. If that's the case, unless you have a very well-trained, technologically able, and supremely diligent workforce, you are probably simply archiving the e-mail database and letting it sit on some remote server in case it ever needs to be accessed. We regret to inform you that you are probably not in compliance with best practices under Sarbanes-Oxley.
In the event you are not familiar with these best practices, here's a quick rundown: E-mail must be password-protected, read-only, non-deletable, encrypted, digitally signed, and exist in a closed system online and offline; it must follow the defined policies of the company, including what e-mail is archived, how long e-mail archives are retained, and how e-mail is protected; it must be auditable by a third-party (e.g., ambulance chasers and federal snoops); and it must be index-based on capturing standard RFC-822 header information (in other words, eminently searchable).
Microsoft Outlook does not do most of this well, at least not easily, and chances are neither do your employees.
This is why Oasys Limited (www.oasys-software.com), the software arm of Arup, the international design and engineering firm, built its own solution to this dilemma. Called Oasys Mail Manager, it hangs over Outlook and makes it a snap (an unavoidable one if you wish) to place every e-mail message in its rightful place where it can be found though a highly versatile search system. It eliminates the need for archival redundancy, which, when you think about it, could cut the cost of e-mail storage just about in half.
That's not the news. This software has been around since 2003, though, according to Oasys managing director Alec Milton, it has not attracted any users in the U.S. home-building industry.
The news is a new feature that was added late last year. Called Snap ‘n' Send, it, as its name implies, takes a screen snapshot of anything and allows it to be re-sized, manipulated, annotated, enhanced, or just about anything one might want to do with such material. It then goes out as part of an e-mail. No PDFs, GIFs, TIFFs, or JPEGs, or the programs used to create them, are needed. During a recent virtual demonstration, Milton composed a fairly attractive and potentially informative graphic and shipped it off... in a matter of a couple minutes (yes, two).
As a former magazine editor who was constrained by the size of graphics files and the inability to send them via e-mail, I could appreciate this feature. I could also imagine that it could prove quite useful for house or site plans, especially when they get into changes. Imagine the ability to switch, swap, and send, with annotations and explanations, and imagine that they all wind up in the job- or subject-appropriate folder, where they could be retrieved via a simple search, anytime. Even on your Blackberry.
Not to mention Sarbanes-Oxley compliance.
Of course, this functionality comes at a price: $195.50 for the first license, with volume discounts beyond. Oasys is based in Britain but has offices on Sixth Avenue in New York. Send them an e-mail. They love them.