for the DIS. "If it's personnel records, it may be seven years. If it's a financial resource record, it could be 100 years."

The vault deletes the files automatically whenever their retention dates occur. The DIS expects this to save storage space by eliminating old, unneeded documents.

Citizens or government officials can still request documents from individual agencies. However, single access points exist if someone needs records from multiple agencies, thanks to the DIS repository's nimbleness. The Washington Attorney General's Office frequently functions as that point of entry.

The disparate e-mail systems serving different agencies in the state don't create problems for the centralized vault, either. Washington has a voluntary centralized e-mail system that only some agencies use, however, any agency can use the DIS data repository.

Given that submitting records to the vault was voluntary, the DIS deployed it with a well prepared sales pitch to agencies, said DIS CIO Melissa Rohwedder.

"They did an awareness campaign, which was a big part of the success of rolling this thing out," she said.

The DIS is transferring five agencies' e-mail systems into the vault, and five more are planned. DIS officials decided to get a handle on archiving e-mail first because it's the focus of most information requests. Symantec charges the state a monthly license fee of $2.45 per end-user and $4.27 per GB of storage per month. Those rates drop as the DIS imports more end-users into the vault. So far, there are more than 10,000 users.

For users, the vault is virtually transparent, according to Webster.

"Their feedback is, 'I can't even tell that I have that - it looks the same. The only thing it changed was an icon to show me that the e-mail isn't sitting on the Microsoft Exchange server. It's now in the vault,'" she said.

Andy Opsahl  |  Features Editor