Email archiving is the process of saving and storing emails in a safe database so they can be accessed for later use. This process means that emails can be easily accessed when needed and also kept safe away from email inboxes where they may be liable to be breached and stolen or accidentally deleted for good.
Email archiving can work by either automatically saving all email content as it is sent and received or by harvesting emails when in transit. Once messages have been captured, they will be stored and indexed for easy future access. Email archiving solutions can either come as an on-prem solution or a cloud one.
Why Email Archiving?
One of the driving reasons organizations implement email archiving solutions is legal compliance. A lot of regulated industries, such as healthcare, financial services, and government agencies, require organizations to have email archiving in place to retain their records and any information sent. Email content needs to be saved and retained somewhere safe where it cannot be changed by anyone in case information needs to be pulled up further down the line. It’s actually a requirement in American law that all businesses must keep ahold of email records for at least five years.
Essentially, the majority of industries need to be able to supply historic emails and data when necessary and email archiving helps provide this. Companies often send sensitive data about clients, customers, and employees, invoices, financial and legal information, health information and more. Regulations will require for these emails to be retained, collated, saved, and monitored for when they need to be provided on demand.
How Does Email Archiving Work?
Many organizations choose to implement email archiving by purchasing an email archiving solution, which integrates with their chosen email client, such as Office 365, Google Workspace or Exchange Online. Most leading solutions on the market are fully cloud-based and automate the archiving process.
Once an email has been sent or received, it will be automatically saved to the email archive platform–which is completely separate from your live servers–your company will have in place. Email archives will have restricted and safe access for users to be able to visit the archive as and when they need to.
Email archiving needs strong indexing capabilities in order for it to be successful. Users should be able to use intuitive and extensive search tools to help search for the emails they need. The email archiving tool should at least have the ability to index the header, message body, sender and recipient, and any attachments in order to help the user find what they’re looking for. Good platforms will have extensive, granular filtering capabilities with predefined filters.
Once a user needs an email, they can go to the platform’s interface where they can use a search bar to hone down their search. Navigation should be intuitive and the platform should deliver quick results. From there, the user will be able to export specific emails or entire chains into a shareable, downloadable format that should also be provided quickly.
Cloud And On-Prem Email Archiving Platforms
Traditionally, email archives have been magnetic tape based but, as always, if there’s a product, solution, or process then chances are you can outsource it to the cloud. In addition to on-prem email archiving solutions, there’s also a wealth of cloud native archiving platforms that are available.
Cloud archives are becoming an increasingly popular option due to the fact its overall less work and time spent on updating and maintenance. The cloud can be a cheaper and more effective option for small to midsize organizations that don’t have the staff or budget to manage their own solution. However, on-prem archiving solutions remain a firm favorite with large to enterprise level organizations due to tighter security (if configured correctly) and lower costs.
A hybrid version of the two is also an option for organizations that require it or struggle with the limitations both have.
Cloud Vs On-Prem
Both cloud and on-prem platforms will never be a perfect fix. While cloud and on-prem solutions each have their benefits, there are some drawbacks to keep in mind when deciding between the two:
On-prem perks consist of:
- Fixed Costs: Companies will pay for the product and installation, and any additional costs when you consider staffing and resources, but after initial payments there are no hidden fees or increased costs that you get with managed services.
- Complete Control And Oversight: With the solution on-prem, you can keep a closer eye on your security and how your data is being handled, whereas with a managed cloud service you might not be.
Drawbacks of on-prem solutions include:
- IT Resources: Going with an on-prem email archiving platform will need allocated staffing, resources, and time in order to deploy, maintain, and manage.
- Cost: On-prem solutions can prove costly, as companies will need to make the initial purchase, then funnel money, time, staff, and resources into deploying and managing the product.
- It Can Be Hard To Migrate: On-prem to cloud migration. All the cool businesses are doing it. However, if you already have an on-prem archiving platform in place, it can be quite difficult and time consuming to manually move all of this data to the cloud.
The benefits of a cloud email archiving solution include:
- Ease Of Use And Deployment: As it’s cloud based by nature, installing and running the platform is far easier than configuring and managing an on-prem one. This service can also be outsourced entirely, leaving your teams with one less thing to worry about.
- Pay-As-You-Go: Costs for cloud services are usually fairly inexpensive.
And the drawbacks:
- Potential Increased Costs: A lot of cloud email archiving platforms will charge per mailbox, whether that mailbox is active or inactive. Usage is typically charged as a “pay-as-you-go” rate as well. For organizations that have a large workforce, this cost can go up considerably, as would any organization that sees a lot of seasonal staff or staff frequently coming and going.
- Security Concerns: Just because your emails are out of sight does not mean they’;re out of mind. While they’re being looked after by a third-party and their security is often airtight, breaches still do happen. If the third party vendor was compromised, so would all your data and emails be.
- Customization Can Be Limited: While some vendors offer add-on archiving for additional communication formats like texts and social media, the majority of them do not. In the event that they do, this can prove to be a costly add-on.
Email Archiving Vs Email Backup
While email archiving and email backup might seem like the same thing, the two tools have distinct differences and share few similarities.
Email archiving refers to the long-term storing of email content for potential future use, legal reasons, and compliance. It’s essentially data that the company needs to keep. As these storage containers need to keep a lot of information for a very long time, these platforms need to be highly secure and be able to hold mass volumes of data. Most common forms of email archiving is either as a cloud platform or as a physical storage device that can be automatically updated.
Email backup solutions, on the other hand, essentially create backup copies of any saved emails so if there’s a breach or system failure, these emails can be restored. These backup solutions either come as a cloud solution or as a removable media solution.
The Overall Benefits Of Email Archiving
A list of some the benefits implementing an email archiving platform can bring:
- Compliance: As mentioned, a lot of organizations belonging to certain industries (namely legal and healthcare when confidential information is frequently exchanged via email and historical emails need to be found for further work) actually require email archiving solutions to be in place in order for the organization in question to remain compliant with certain guidelines.
- It Makes Things Easy To Find: A lot of the time, your users will need to pull up emails to access content that they sent ages ago, for whatever reason this may be. Rather than trundling through files or hoping they saved an email to a folder, the user can access the email archiving solution and use a handy searching tool that helps them funnel down their search so they can more quickly and accurately pull up the information they need. Not only does it make it easier for your user, it makes it faster as well–something that is particularly useful for organizations where pulling up old information quickly is essential.
- Legal Disputes: Having your company go to court and supply evidence is something we all hope never happens, but it does happen and in the event of it you’ll need to be prepared. Email chains and any attached content are frequently being seen in legal disputes as critical evidence. In the rare case that your users or company need to appear in court, you can provide reams of saved–and more importantly, untampered with and unchanged–email content to be supplied as evidence in court.
- It Protects Your Data: Email archiving platforms will be heavily protected and encrypted, making sure that any emails (and the sensitive information and data inside those emails) stays safe and away from threat actors if they manage to compromise your network. Some email archiving solutions can protect archived emails whether they’re in transit or at rest. Email archiving can also have strict access controls, meaning that no one who shouldn’t be accessing your data is accessing it, making sure it stays further protected from data exfiltration that is either committed from negligence or malice. Emails, and by proxy email servers, typically aren’t very secure. They can easily be accessed during breaches. Having an email archiving solution where all historic email content is stored adds an extra barrier to attackers trying to steal your data. Having emails archived and stored safely away also prevents them and their accompanying data from being accidentally deleted by your users.
- Productivity: Having an advanced and intuitive email archiving solution with strong searching capabilities means less time is spent overall on searching through reams and reams of email information looking for that once specific email. Reduced time spent on extensive searching results in a more productive workforce.
- It Frees Up Storage: Email data is massive and, if stored on live servers, can and will continue to affect performance and increase latency for users trying to use those servers. Having emails saved away from these servers frees up space and makes sure performance isn’t hindered.
- It Can Help Restore Lost Data: while we mentioned email backup solutions above, they’re not infallible and can have their oversights. Having both email backup and email archiving solutions in place, with email archiving helping to speed up the respiration process. This is down to the fact that email archiving takes up less space as it’s stored away from the servers.
- Some Cloud Vendors Offer More Than Just Email: Let’s face it, email may rule king in the business world, but it’s not the only way your users communicate with each other. Users use a variety of methods to communicate and collaborate, including instant messages, texts, social media, and files. Admittedly, there aren’t many vendors that offer it, but a select few out there offer add-ons for these messages and content to be archived as well.
Should I Get Email Archiving For My Business?
Chances are, if you need email archiving for your business then you’ll already have it. Email archiving is often part of compliance regulations for a lot of industries, namely healthcare, legal, and financial industries. For companies headquartered in America, it’s a legal requirement to have your emails archived in case of future use. Beyond requirements, however, having a robust email archiving solution can free up space, improve employee productivity, and–most importantly–protect your data, making it a handy tool for organizations from all walks of life to incorporate into their security architecture.
For those that already have an archiving solution in place, it’s worth pointing out that the cost of making a switch should be looked at first, as often the cost of importing legacy data to a new solution can run into high figures.
Have we got you hooked on email archiving? Check out our list of top vendors in the email archiving industry here:
The Top 10 Email Archiving Solutions For Business
Email archiving is one of those tools you have to have, so it pays to make it as streamlined and fuss-free as possible. Moreover, the majority of organizations do need it to comply with compliance guidelines or the law–or both.
However, like with most markets in the cybersecurity industry, the email archiving market is oversaturated with vendors that all seem to be offering identical products. With so many vendors and so much noise in this sector, it can be difficult to find which platform works best for your company’s needs. As such, check out our other blog that covers features to look for when you’re making a purchasing decision for email archiving. Important things to consider is how easy is the product to use for both admins and users, and how the platform’s e-0discovery search tool works. Check out other features to look for here:
6 Features To Look For When Choosing An Email Archiving Solution