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3 Must-Haves of Archive Search Performance: An Email Archive Software Comparison 

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Yes, it’s true that customers who use legacy on-premises archives or even modern cloud solutions say “fast search performance” is a primary reason to migrate to Proofpoint Archive. Our customers often highlight “fast search performance” as a key email archiving solution element. For reference, look no further than Gartner Peer Insights, where “search/index” is ranked the highest out of product feature areas evaluated by our customers. 

However, you don’t buy a Tesla Model X just for its top speed. You don’t purchase a Rolex just to tell time. And you don’t subscribe to or license an archive just for its search performance. Of course, not having adequate search performance can spell dire consequences when you need to address e-discovery requests. Think of having to settle a lawsuit early because you can’t get search results in time to determine whether it makes better sense to litigate. 

But there’s more to email archive search performance than just speed. In this blog, we’ll explore three factors that drive positive outcomes for our customers. Speed is one, and the other two are scalability and ease of use. 

1: Speed 

When you run a search for specific information in your email archive, how long does it take to retrieve that information? Hours? Days? Longer? Search speed dictates how fast you receive results from a search. While some vendor email archiving tools are incredibly slow, Proofpoint Archive has a financially backed search service-level agreement (SLA) that obligates us to return search results in seconds, on average, for our customers. 

To give you with some context, here’s what we found when we compared the email archive search speeds of Microsoft Purview eDiscovery and Proofpoint Archive—specifically when searching 100 mailboxes and 50,000 mailboxes. For this example, a total of 200 searches were run, based on an average of 10 cases managed per month with each case requiring 20 searches to be performed.  

Microsoft doesn’t have search performance SLAs. But they provide “guidelines for average search time” based on the number of mailboxes searched. (See the table below.)  

Figure 1

Guidelines for average search times for Microsoft Purview eDiscovery solutions. 

Based on internal, anonymous archive usage reports, as of August 2023 the average search time for Proofpoint Archive was 3.28 seconds.  

Also, it's estimated that Microsoft will take about 1.67 hours to return results when searching 100 mailboxes. Proofpoint Archive returned results in about 0.18 hours, as shown below. 

Figure 2

A comparison of search speed between Microsoft and Proofpoint. 

At this level of searching, the search speed difference may not seem significant. However, if you factor in rerunning searches due to new data or a system failure (like index corruption) with Microsoft, the numbers can grow rapidly. The search speed expectation with Proofpoint remains consistent, given our average search performance, particularly when you run consecutive searches.  

The search speed difference becomes more noteworthy when you consider highly litigious organizations that need to run hundreds or thousands of searches across hundreds or thousands of mailboxes. In the second scenario, when searching 50,000 mailboxes, it's estimated that Microsoft will take about 66.67 hours to return search results. That’s like having your team “babysit” Microsoft e-discovery searches for more than a week and a half every month! 

Separately, Proofpoint Archive is expected to remain the same at 0.18 hours. With Proofpoint, you get search results from the archive when you need them, helping to improve your ability to respond to e-discovery requests and internal investigations in a timely fashion. 

2: Scalability 

When you address an e-discovery request, do you run only one search? Probably not. The factor of search scalability defines your ability to achieve your expected search speed performance time and time again, regardless of whether you’re searching 100 mailboxes or 50,000 mailboxes—and regardless of the size of your archive or the complexity of your queries. 

When I reviewed internal, anonymous archive usage reports for the years 2021 to 2022, I found that the overall average search time varied by only 11.4%. That’s despite the aggregate size of all archives growing by nearly 225%. For this window of time, the statistics reinforce the search scalability provided by Proofpoint Archive. 

3: Ease of use 

Ease of use is the final factor of archive search performance. Like speed, it’s another top reason we see clients migrate to Proofpoint Archive from competitive email archiving tools.  

Speaking from experience, when I search my own personal Proofpoint archive, it’s extremely easy to do. I often use it more than Outlook Search because Proofpoint gives me the expanded filtering I need to find exactly the right message(s). Plus, my emails are archived. So, if the messages I’m interested in have already been deleted from my inbox, I know I can find them by searching my personal archive, if they’re still within the email retention period. 

The Search interface (shown in the figure below) is also easy and intuitive to traverse and very powerful.  

Figure 3

The powerful and easy-to-use Search interface in Proofpoint Archive. 

Because we can capture email and other digital communication sources like Microsoft Teams, Slack and Zoom, we can easily customize search to retrieve items from one or more specific sources. You just need to select the appropriate “message class(es)” in your search criteria. And if you don’t select any message classes, the search will retrieve all items that match your criteria. 

Finally, when doing an email archive solution comparison, some vendors may charge extra or require optional modules for export or legal hold. In contrast, Proofpoint provides built-in, high-performance search, export and legal hold, which is included in your subscription to Proofpoint Archive.  

For most of our customers, the Proofpoint Archive features offer sufficient functionality for their searching needs. A few, particularly those in highly litigious organizations, might also benefit a great deal from the advanced capabilities of Proofpoint Discover. Its key features include case management, visualizations and query analytics.  

Next steps 

I hope this discussion on speed, scalability and ease of use gives you a fresh perspective on the superior archive search performance that you can potentially achieve. Don’t settle for less-than-optimal email archiving tools.  

To learn more about Proofpoint Archive or see a demo of our search capabilities, contact your compliance sales specialist