A growing number of laws require that companies regard documents created electronically -- including e-mail -- with the same amount of legal weight as paper documents. Founded in 1996, Zantaz, of Pleasanton, Calif., assists companies in managing electronic document and messaging resources and comply with industry regulations. The company was No. 59 on the 2005 Inc. 500. Zantaz' President and CEO Steve King talks about how being proactive in managing e-mail archives can reduce challenges of compliance and competition.

Inc. Technology: What is the most significant mistake that small businesses make when establishing their e-mail archival policies?

Steve King: Some small business do not feel the same urgency as large organizations to archive e-mail -- only 28 percent of small-to-medium sized businesses use e-mail archival software. Yet small businesses are less likely to have necessary resources to quickly find e-mail especially if it requires restoring an entire server or backup tape. Also, many small businesses are not equipped to properly handle archiving e-mail attachments and may experience difficulty when trying to find documents.

Inc. Technology: What are the information risks that small businesses need to consider when managing their e-mail archives?

King: There are two kinds of risks: operational risk (or business efficiency) in not being able to compete, and legal/regulatory risk. For example, one law firm was having difficulty remaining competitive because the partners were each spending up to an hour per day managing their e-mail accounts. For legal risks, when an issue arises and archived e-mail becomes evidence, the risks are magnified and companies need trusted partners to handle their sensitive information.

Inc. Technology: How do companies balance their e-mail storage costs with the need to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley requirements for information retrieval?

King: The first step of protecting yourself is to have a proactive archival process in place. Proactively deploying archival storage will mitigate the risks of the magnitude-higher retrieval expense if a court asks to see records.

Inc. Technology: What are the benefits to small business of offsite e-mail storage?

King: Archiving e-mail offsite does not use up the limited resources of the IT departments of small businesses. Managing the e-mail archives can cost five to seven times more than the actual storage cost when stored offsite, so it can be done at minimal additional cost. The cost of implementation is minimal, and the time to be up and running is very short.