IT More Stressed by Email Problems than Divorce

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Corporate email systems are driving IT workers crazy. Really.

A new study reveals that more than one-third of IT staffers say the loss of email is more traumatic to them than a car accident or getting divorced. With American workers more dependent on email than on the telephone when it comes to business communications, keeping the corporate email system up and running is really stressing out the IT department.

The study, which was done by Veritas Software Corp., a storage software company based in Mountain View, Calif., also shows that 68 percent of IT workers say users get irate within as little as 30 minutes without email access. And one-fifth of IT managers say their jobs would be on the line if the system was not back up within 24 hours.

''Saying it's worse than divorce may be a little overdone, but it is accurate,'' says Sara Radicati, president and CEO of The Radicati Group, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based market research and consulting firm specializing in messaging systems. ''People get very emotional over the loss of email. They get frantic and feel disconnected. Then that pressure is put on the IT manager.''

A full 34 percent of IT staffers surveyed said a week without email would be harder to deal with than a car accident or divorce. Despite that fear, when unplanned downtime does happen, only 4 percent of IT managers say they can restore it in less than an hour. Fifteen percent say it takes a full hour, and 41 percent say it takes more than an hour to restore the whole system. The Veritas report notes that 39 percent say they don't know how long it would take to get their email systems up and running again.

The roll of email in the enterprise becomes more critical when business executives and IT managers realize that it has become the most important communication tool in the office.

A wide majority of business people rely on email more than the telephone when it comes to business communications, according to a recent study from Meta Group, Inc. The report shows that 80 percent of the business people surveyed say email is more valuable to them than the telephone. Meta Group, an industry analyst firm based in Stamford, Conn., also reports that 74 percent of those surveyed say being without email would present more of a hardship than being without phone service.

That means IT workers are under a tremendous amount of pressure to keep that email flowing, says Chris Williams, an analyst at Ferris Research, Inc., an industry analyst firm based in San Francisco.

''When a company email system goes down, IT is under the gun to get it back as quickly as possible,'' adds Williams. ''When email goes down for a company, it is a big deal and it's an all-hands effort to get it restored.''

Williams also notes that workers have become tied -- from both a business and an emotional sense -- to their email. Without it, they're frantic. And when end users become frantic, it's not long before they share that feeling with IT.

''Look at the volumes,'' says Williams. ''People spend all day with their email up and running. When a message comes in, they can respond quickly. There's cost advantages. There's time advantages. Its a worldwide phenomenon. You can reach anybody anywhere around the world... Saying it's very useful is an understatement.''

Analysts note that problematic email systems are causing undue stress in the workplace.

''Email has become far more than a communication tool, placing a huge responsibility on organizations to ensure that email is always available,'' says Mark Bregman, an executive vice president at Veritas. ''When IT managers fail to keep the systems running, they inhibit the ability of the entire organization to conduct business.''

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