Email archiving is a system for preserving email communications in a format that can be digitally stored, indexed, searched and retrieved. Organizations typically deploy 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 sand protection
Email Archiving Best Practices
Organizations are generating more data—and more kinds of data—every day. Managing it in a way that is compliant, cost effective and efficient has never been more complicated.
To get the most of their email archiving investments, organizations should look for these features:
Good performance and user experience
The ideal email archive provides a centralized, 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 organization’s workflow and keeps employees productive. And search performance should be fast and accurate no matter how large the archive grows. At the organizational 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 organizations need, the email archive should be failsafe. Consider a 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 journaling mailbox until it is safely in the archive. The solution should also provide full reporting and a transparent, unalterable audit trail that lets the organization demonstrate that it has met all retention, chain-of-custody, and legal-hold requirements.
If the archived data isn’t safe, then organizations run the risk of not being compliant. To keep it secure, any data that leaves the environment should be always be encrypted. Consider a solution that protects in transit and at rest in the cloud archive infrastructure. The encryption key should be the organization’s alone—not shared with the cloud archive provider—so that it retains full control over who can access archives data. Data centers 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.
Cloud vs. On-Premise
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 the cloud 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 aging on-premises the cloud 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 organizations with legacy email archiving software and years of data archives to manage, a hybrid approach might make more sense.
Migrating an email archive to the cloud does cost time, money and resources. To streamline the process and reduce the risk of data loss, organizations should consider a 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 organization.
Most organizations are subject to rules that require them to retain some records—and not just those in traditionally “regulated” industries.
As Osterman Research explains, financial documents, email correspondence between organizations, employee records, invoices, shipping information, and even metadata may be subject to archiving rules. These regulations often require organizations to collect, monitor, retain and produce these records on demand.
Email Archiving in Outlook & Gmail
Microsoft Office 365 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.
 Osterman Research. “Strategies for Archiving in Hybrid Environments.” October 2017.