Email archiving is a lot like going to the dentist –if you’ve never done it before, it’s something you know you should do, but if you can, you’ll put it off as long as possible. Implementing an archiving solution really isn't as bad as you think. Here are some things you need to know.
Email Archiving Can Help Immensely During E-Discovery
In my article about E-Discovery (here), I discussed the need for a mail archiving solution. E-Discovery is all about finding relevant electronically stored information in your organization. At many organizations, email is the primary means of communication and transfer of information, thus one of the first things you should do to protect yourself from an E-Discovery request is to implement a mail archival solution.
Email archiving allows you to store and index incoming and outgoing mail and perform easy queries to quickly find needed information. As an example, during E-Discovery you may be required to present all emails to and from a specific customer during a specified time frame – with a mail archiving system, you can pull this off without much difficulty. Performing the same query by hand could take days or weeks (or more) depending on the request and amount of mail you’ve got.
Email Archiving Can Save you Money
Mail archiving systems can help you save money by making more efficient use of your resources.
As mentioned above, since many organizations store files in addition to daily correspondence in their email systems, storage needs for mail systems have drastically increased in the last decade. Keeping every incoming and outgoing piece of mail indefinitely can take up a good chunk of storage. If you’re running your main mail system on server class hardware or even a Storage Area Network, you know that business-class storage does not come cheap.
The good news is that although mail archiving systems may require vast amounts of storage, other requirements are pretty minimal. There’s no reason to keep all your archived mail on the primary mail server. Moving it off to secondary storage or a lower powered server can save you from having to buy additional costly storage for your primary system.
Email Archiving Can Tame Unruly PST Files
One of the most frustrating things about using Outlook and Exchange is the plethora of PST files that get created by end users. Without a mail archiving system and some policies in place, users run free creating their own system for archiving. This makes it difficult to control the company’s resources – putting you and the company at risk.
Most commercial archiving solutions allow you to automatically search out and import PST files from the network.
Another reason end users create PST files is so they can have offline access to their files if they travel and don’t have access to the corporate network. Some archival solutions offer a web based interface available in the company DMZ so that you can access archived mail remotely.
Email Archiving Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive
There are plenty of expensive archiving solutions out there and maybe some of those will meet your needs better than a less expensive solution, but don’t let this dissuade you from implementing a mail archiving solution.
A simple mail archiving solution can be put in place with a desktop PC, a large hard drive and an open source archival application such as Mailarchiva for about a thousand dollars. You could always use existing hardware if you’ve got extra lying about.
Mailarchiva comes in two editions – Open Source and Enterprise. The Open Source edition has a good set of features and is free. The Enterprise edition offer more advanced features, but if you’re starting out with mail archiving, it may make sense to start with something cheap (free) and simple.
More information regarding Mailarchiva can be found here.
Email Archiving Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult to Implement
Just like there are expensive solutions for archiving email, there are some solutions that are difficult to implement and use. The good thing is that there are some really easy to use, powerful solutions that would meet most small and medium business’ needs.
Although Mailarchiva is a server based solution, it is built for easy installation and maintenance. Going one step further, you could invest in an appliance such as the Barracuda Networks Message Archiver. The Barracuda is a hardware appliance where you pay an initial fee and small yearly maintenance fee to let Barracuda Networks take care of the Operating System and any hardware issues that crop up. This lets you “set it and forget it", making maintenance and set up extremely easy. Additional information regarding Barracuda Networks’ Mail Archiver can be found here. Alternatively, you could consider a solution that has been specifically designed for SMBs such as GFI MailArchiver about which Tom Olzak, CISSP, MCSE, stated, "I found MailArchiver to be a great solution for SMBs. It's feature-rich, easily meeting all the challenges I listed in the opening section of this review. Even though it has a couple of issues I'd like to see addressed, I highly recommend this product."