Email Archiving Service

Email archives are used for long term storage of email to meet compliance and eDiscovery obligations. Some businesses choose to manage their email archive in house, but a growing number are outsourcing email retention and are using an email archiving service. For the majority of small- and medium-sized businesses, an email archiving service is the most practical and cost-effective choice.

An email archiving service is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering where all email archiving takes place in the cloud rather than storing email data on your on-premise infrastructure. Local email storage can create problems for IT departments and the volume of email now being sent and the length of time that email data must be retained places a high burden on the corporate data center. With a cloud-based email archiving service there are no local storage requirements. All email data is securely stored on the service provider’s infrastructure. The scalability of the cloud means that you will never run out of storage space.

Small businesses will typically not have the in-house expertise to set up and maintain an in-house email archive, so outsourcing this requirement to a service provider makes a great deal of sense. However, even large enterprises are seeing the benefits of using an email archiving service. Outsourcing is much faster than setting up an on-premise archive and there is usually a lower cost of ownership. Another important factor is a SaaS offering will come out of the operational budget rather than capital expenditure budget.

Email Archiving vs Backups

It is important to make a distinction between email archives and data backups. Both are used to store emails securely, but they serve different purposes. A backup is used for short term email storage for disaster recovery purposes. Backups are retained for days, weeks, or a few months and are then overwritten. They are used for disaster recovery such as when email data has been corrupted and entire mailboxes need to be restored.

Email archives are used for long term email storage, usually for up to 10 years and are a requirement for compliance with statutory regulations. In contrast to backups, email archives contain a read only copy of messages to ensure message integrity is preserved, which is essential for legal reasons. Archives are also searchable, which is not the case with backups. If you have to find and recover certain emails, an email archive will allow you to do that in minutes and largely automate the process. It could take several days or weeks of manual searching to find and restore emails from backups.

The main reasons for using an email archive are:

  • Regulatory compliance
  • Litigation support and eDiscovery
  • Storage management
  • Business continuity
  • Data backups
  • Ensuring availability of information

How Does Email Archiving Work?

An email archive essentially acts like a black box flight recorder for email. Come what may, email data will always be recoverable. An exact read-only copy of each message is retained and can be recovered whenever required, such as when an email has been accidentally deleted from an email account or for audits and eDiscovery requests.

There are two components to email archiving, the first concerns the capture of emails from email accounts. The second involves sending the email to a cloud archive and indexing the emails to allow the archive to be searched.

An email archiving service is usually combined into your mail client, such as Outlook, to make archiving and recovering emails easier. Archives can also be accessed through a web-based user interface, which can be accessed using a standard web browser. No matter where you are, you will always have instant access to your emails in the archive.

The second stage of the archiving process sees policies applied to determine how the emails are routed and where they are stored. Duplicate content may also be removed to reduce storage space, such as only storing one copy of an email attachment, while retaining a reference to it to allow it to be recovered. Email retention rules are also applied that set messages for automatic deletion in accordance with the email retention policy.

Should I Use Cloud Email Archiving or an On-Premise Solution?

An email archiving service is the easiest option as everything is managed for you and getting started is a very quick and easy process. However, you should weigh up the costs of both options. Cloud-based email archives are often the most cost-effective choice for SMBs, but there may be cost advantages to on-premise solutions for enterprises. You should evaluate the costs of each option before making a decision. If you chose an email archiving service from a managed service provider, be sure to carefully check the service level agreement. There may be costs associated with email recovery and responding to eDiscovery requests. Also carefully check the timescales for email recovery and make sure they meet the needs of your business.

You may have doubts about security in the cloud but these fears are often unfounded. Cloud-based email archiving solutions can provide the same or greater security that on-premise email archives, and typically include a host of security controls to ensure email data is protected, including strong authentication, MFA, and single sign on. Data is also encrypted at rest and most email archives use full end-to-end encryption. Since email archiving services can vary considerably, be sure to assess the security protections provided by each to make sure they meet your organization’s requirements.