The lingering stone age methods used to archive web content for legal and compliance purposes hit Steve Marsh like a brick after a recent survey conducted by his email archiving firm.
"When we asked about web content, we found that most firms are still doing manual archiving and reviewing. Most were still printing and storing web pages. If compliance [departments] want to do a review of web documents, they will print out or fax a page and file it away, or later print them and turn them into a PDF," says Marsh, CEO and founder of Smarsh (SMASP), which just introduced a new web archiving tool the firm hopes will draw banks out of the caves.
Using tech it recently acquired from a web archiving startup called Perpetually, Smarsh has built a web archiving system that's almost like a time machine — it captures the original source code for web pages, which lets people to view that page as it appeared in a single point in time. "You can see the web page in its working form. You aren't looking at a screen shot," Marsh says. "So when a compliance officer or a legal person or another exec want to view sites, they can see how the site looked and felt at the time."
Smarsh is competing with tech firms such as Symantec (SYMC) and HP (HPQ) to build web archiving tools to accommodate more complex web content, such as video attachments, web links and social media. This content is increasingly included in communications between financial firms and business partners, and financial firms and clients. It's also subject to regulatory scrutiny and is harder to archive and deliver to third parties by using traditional screen shots and text capture.
"Smarsh's new product allows it to archive static and dynamic web content," says Brian Hill, a principal analyst at Forrester Research. Hill says the expansion of social media use by banks has placed digital archiving at a tipping point, opening up the market for hosted services that offer advanced techniques to capture live web content. It's a nascent market that should pick up quickly given the intersection of tech development and regulatory mandates. "Smarsh is getting into this relatively early, but it's a good move for them," Hill says.
The archiving rules come from U.S. agencies such as FINRA and the SEC and international regulatory bodies such as the UK's Financial Services Authority. The regulations are primarily designed to monitor communications to regulate marketing messages and content that can be construed as marketing financial products, investment or services, and call for electronic content to be stored for potential compliance audits and subpoena.
"Electronically stored information is subject to discovery…the focus on upgrading technology to archive other types of content, such as file shares, is a national progression to the focus on having that information available," says Hill.