Email Archiving Moves to the Cloud

This article is part of the Best Practices White Paper Records Management & Regulatory Compliance [November/December 2008]


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Five years ago, the importance of email archiving was just starting to capture the attention of IT organizations. The combination of soaring volumes of email, along with a growing awareness of the legal sensitivity of email, prompted many organizations to reconsider how email records were being managed. These trends have continued to accelerate through today, increasing the pressure on organizations of all sizes, and making email archiving a widely recommended practice. Yet there is still resistance among IT organizations against building out yet another piece of infrastructure to support their email platforms. As a result, many are finding that hosted email archiving solutions, which offload the burden of creating new infrastructure, provide a path to meet these challenges quickly and comprehensively. In the process, they are discovering a variety of other benefits that derive from the outsourcing of email archiving.

Why Email Archiving?
Initially, the interest in email archiving was driven by the realization that email storage volumes were getting out of hand. Not only was the number of emails sent and received each day rising, along with the average message size, workers also increasingly sought to retain more and more historical mail, creating personal folders to store mail exceeding mailbox quotas. This trend, of course, has continued, as the average amount of email stored per employee has soared over 500% in the last five years.

Happening in parallel to this was an awakening among organizations to the legal sensitivity of that sprawling store of email. Headline-grabbing lawsuits hinging on email as the critical evidence, rules and regulations influencing how organizations retain email and the stinging costs accruing to businesses during the discovery process made it clear that the haphazard approaches many took toward managing email storage would be unsustainable. Enforcing a retention policy and locating email reliably for legal discovery proved next to impossible when email was stored across servers, backup media, end-user devices and other locations. In the 2006 "Fulbright & Jaworski Litigation Trends Survey," only 19% of companies surveyed considered themselves to be well-prepared for e-discovery issues. A recent AIIM survey asked, "If your organization was sued by a former customer or citizen, how long would it take to produce all of the information related to that person?". 27% of respondents stated it would take a month.

Email archiving emerged as a solution to both the challenge of high-volume, long-term storage, and more centralized, orderly management of retention and discovery. Archiving solutions capture and store email off of existing email servers in a centralized repository. Moreover, the archived email remains accessible and searchable, both for end-users, and for legal and other administrators to perform investigations and locate email for legal discovery. In many ways, this solution became obvious, and the benefits clear. But many organizations have still hesitated to make the investment in more infrastructure, particularly knowing that this will be yet one more solution requiring ongoing maintenance, upgrading and scaling.

The Hosted Model Takes Hold
Overcoming the barriers to managing email storage and discovery has been simplified by the emergence of hosted archiving solutions. Delivering email archiving as a hosted application means that a secure copy of all mail can be stored automatically by a third party, with search and access available over the Web. This model cuts down significantly on the costs and complexity required to get started archiving. Moreover, businesses are finding long-term benefits in moving the burden of email archiving into "the cloud." Specific advantages of the hosted archiving model include:

  • Deployment in days, not weeks. Hosted solutions can typically be deployed in a matter of days. This can be crucial in the event of an urgent legal situation requiring that email be preserved;
  • No investment in onsite infrastructure. Building out the storage capacity and hardware required to start archiving can be a significant upfront cost. Hosted archiving removes this barrier;
  • Low, predictable costs. Since the hosted model is based on a regular subscription fee, stable costs can be projected with no surprises. Moreover, when the total cost of ownership is taken into account, hosted solutions provide a lower overall cost over time;
  • No maintenance or scaling required. By outsourcing the management of the archive to a third party, personnel costs and storage scaling are eliminated, so your IT organization can focus on business critical activities; and
  • Economies of scale. Hosted solutions use data centers that provide storage and computing power at a scale that individual organizations cannot achieve on their own. Hosted archiving enables smaller organizations to take advantage of the efficiencies and lower costs that this model drives.

Companies opting for the hosted model are realizing other benefits from shifting the burden of storage and availability onto a third party. There is a peace of mind that comes with knowing that data is being stored securely offsite, so that even in the case of a disaster that causes data loss at the site of the organization, critical email data is still retained.

Getting Started
Since choosing a hosted model removes many of the barriers to getting started with email archiving, the steps for implementing a solution can be simple:

  • Evaluate your current email system and identify gaps in meeting your organization’s objectives around retention of historical email, and your ability to respond to legal discovery requests;
  • Seek out an archiving solution that is compatible with your email system, and will scale over time. Look for unlimited storage so capacity planning need not be a concern; and
  • Keep it simple. The most important thing is to get started, so don’t make the project more complex than it has to be.

Due to the rising volume and legal sensitivity of email, implementing an email archiving solution is now somewhere on the agenda of most IT organizations. Hosted email archiving enables more organizations to check this requirement off their lists quickly, to begin realizing the benefits of better email management, and to take advantage of the scale and simplicity of a managed service.   


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