Email archiving is a system for preserving email communications in a format that can be digitally stored, indexed, searched and retrieved. Organisations typically deploy email archiving email archiving solutions for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Business continuity and disaster recovery.
  • Internal audits and investigations.
  • E-discovery for litigation.
  • Regulatory compliance.
  • Records management.
  • Intellectual property documentation and protection.

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Email Archiving Best Practices

Organisations are generating more data—and more kinds of data—every day. Managing an email archiving system in a way that is compliant, cost effective and efficient has never been more complicated.

To get the most of their email archiving investments, organisations should look for these features as part of email archiving best practices:

Good performance and user experience

The ideal email archiving system provides a centralised, searchable repository that gives users access to historical data. At the user level, it should be simple and intuitive, with a familiar user experience that fits the organisation’s workflow and keeps employees productive. And search performance should be fast and accurate no matter how large the archive grows. At the organisational level, it should help IT, compliance and legal teams reduce the cost and complexity managing and monitoring today’s exploding data volumes.

High fidelity and data quality

To demonstrate the chain of custody and preserve every message organisations need, email archiving best practices dictate that the archive should be failsafe. Consider an email archiving solution that can guarantee that no message is lost, even if the network goes down. Insist that the cloud archiving vendor can prove that nothing is removed from the journalling mailbox until it is safely in the archive. The solution should also provide full reporting and a transparent, unalterable audit trail that lets the organisation demonstrate that it has met all retention, chain-of-custody, and legal-hold requirements.

Data security

If the archived data isn’t safe, then organisations run the risk of not being compliant. To keep it secure, any data that leaves the environment should be always be encrypted. Consider a cloud archiving solution that protects in transit and at rest in the cloud archive infrastructure. The encryption key should be the organisation’s alone—not shared with the cloud archive provider—so that it retains full control over who can access archives data. Data centres used to house the cloud archive should be SSAE-16 SOC 2 Type II certified—not just for the physical facilities, but for service itself.

On-Premise vs. Cloud Email Archiving

While email archives have traditionally been stored on magnetic tape and other low-cost media, the cloud is an increasingly popular email archiving option due to falling costs, greater efficiencies, and added capabilities vs. on-premises archiving. The trend will only accelerate as more and more data originates from and lives in the cloud.

Other companies are moving their archives to cloud based email archiving to shrink their data and infrastructure footprint. Such a move can lower costs because cloud services enjoy IT economies of scale that even most large enterprises can’t match. The move can also improve security and performance. Retrieving data for audits and legal requests from a cloud-based email archive is usually much easier and faster than with on-premises vaults. For companies already moving their email and collaboration infrastructure to Office 365, the choice is even clearer—even the best on-premises compliance archives can’t archive cloud-based content efficiently.

Compared to ageing on-premises, cloud based email archiving is often less expensive, easier to manage and more reliable. But the switch can seem daunting, and it comes with its own challenges. For many organisations with legacy email archiving software and years of data archives to manage, a hybrid approach might make more sense.

Cloud Vs On-Premises Secure Email Gateway Comparison

Migrating an email archive to the cloud does cost time, money and resources. To streamline the process and reduce the risk of data loss, organisations should consider an email archive migration strategy that fits their goals, needs, and resources.

Here are four approaches to consider:

  • Move all the data.
  • Put new data in the cloud, keep old data in an existing archive.
  • Migrate all important data.
  • Migrate data that falls within your retention policy.

Each option has pros and cons, and no single approach is best for every organisation.

Email Archiving Compliance

Most organisations are subject to rules that require email compliance archiving and to retain some records—and not just those in traditionally “regulated” industries.

As Osterman Research explains, financial documents, email correspondence between organisations, employee records, invoices, shipping information, and even metadata may be subject to archiving rules. These regulations often require organisations to collect, monitor, retain and produce these records on demand.[1]

Email Archiving in Outlook & Gmail

With Office 365 built-in archive comes with built-in archiving for end-user mailboxes. It’s a seamless, integrated experience that’s easy to use. But it’s meant for end-users, not IT departments.

With Office 365’s built-in archive, users may be able to easily archive and find old emails. But without additional services, administrators, auditors, and legal teams can’t adequately archive, search and supervise content across the enterprise.

With Office 365’s native archiving features, enterprise-wide email searches are difficult. Supervisory reviews are slow. And compliance policies can be applied to only a limited set of content. That leaves out a wide range of employee communication that takes place outside the Microsoft ecosystem, such as social media and instant messaging.

In many ways, the native archiving features of Gmail are even more limited.

For compliance, e-discovery, and corporate governance, most companies need a true enterprise-class email archiving solution that augments the platform’s native mailbox archiving features.



[1] Osterman Research. “Strategies for Archiving in Hybrid Environments.”

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