Email is one of the most important means of global communication. But while we face a constantly growing volume of emails, information sent by email is generally not stored anywhere else, but simply remains in the mailboxes of the users. In addition, companies around the world are facing a growing number of compliance requirements (e.g. HIPAA and FERPA in the United States or GoBD in Germany). Many managing directors of small and medium-sized companies ask themselves how they can meet these challenges with the help of email archiving and what exactly needs to be archived. But what does the term ‘email archiving’ actually mean and what advantages does it offer for you?
The challenge of email management
269 billion emails were sent and received each day worldwide in 2017. The figure is expected to increase. It’s no surprise then that communication via email is now preferred over other means of communication such as mail or fax. The smooth functioning of email data exchange has become indispensable to many companies. A wealth of information is sent across the globe every day. This includes invoices, contracts, and other business-related information. Every email user, such as an employee at a company, is responsible for the content and processing of data. Accordingly, email archiving can help to process and file emails systematically. Emails can be stored on a long-term basis using email archiving. Email archiving primarily serves the purposes of documentation and preventing data loss. In doing so, emails are stored securely, and their contents remain unchanged. Emails can also be restored if necessary, so that important content is not lost. An important principle to make a note of is that the primary purpose of archiving is for data to be retrieved and made available over a longer period of time. Email archiving should also be a significant component of an IT security strategy.
A brief look back at the evolution of email archiving
While you are reading this article, both of our email inboxes are continuously filling up. This was not always the case. As time goes by, email volumes grow and email archiving evolves. In the early days of email, email archiving was all about trusting the users. Companies relied on their employees to manage their own individual email archives in their email clients. Later on, when IT departments started to introduce the concept of backup, they started backing up emails or even whole email servers, but searching for emails was not common – especially not for end users. In case you needed to restore a particular email, for example as evidence in court proceedings, it often took weeks to find it. IT staff needed to restore whole backups and search for this one particular email, a tedious process.
Nowadays, end users are able to search for a single email within seconds and restore it by themselves.
Different types of email archiving
Have you decided to archive your email? Then you should take the next step and learn about the right strategy. In this regard, the company’s IT administrators should focus on the in-house email infrastructure. This means that they have to choose between server-side or client-side archiving.
Server-side email archiving
Server-side archiving is centralized, automated archiving that functions independently of an end user. This type of email archiving is the most popular, and archives mailboxes such as Exchange, Office 365, IMAP, and Gmail.
Client-side email archiving
Client-side archiving must be set up by the user himself. Accordingly, the user is in charge of the process of email archiving. Client-side archiving is often used in connection with a POP3 mailbox. Here, the local email client (for example, Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird) is used and the corresponding folder structure is adopted. Usually server-side archiving is the best strategy for a business in order to keep control over all relevant email communication, minimize the work for the IT-department and adhere to industry regulations and/or law.
Email archiving on-premises or archiving into the cloud
After you have chosen the correct type of email archiving based on your email infrastructure and your needs, you can choose between an on-premises or a cloud solution. For an on-premises solution the software is purchased and run autonomously in the business’ own server environment. This is an option if the company has its own IT department with its own on-premises mail servers as well as if the company has its email server in the cloud (e.g. Microsoft Office 365) and wants to keep the archive locally. If cloud services are used, the responsibility for maintenance and operation lies with the provider. All data is located on the provider’s system. If you choose email archiving in the cloud only, you should opt for the maximum level of availability and security. Furthermore, we recommend keeping the email archive physically available on your own servers.
Due to the volume of emails sent and received every day, categorization of both emails that require and do not require archiving is almost impossible. For that reason, all incoming and outgoing emails are often archived immediately (called “journaling”). This is also helpful to protect against potential tampering and ensure archive integrity. However, data protection guidelines should be taken into consideration here. For example, in some countries the private use of business email services can be problematic. In this case, a proposed solution would be to prohibit private email use (such as in an employment agreement) or the exclusive use of external email services for private email correspondence. That is why you should always keep an eye on data protection guidelines.
Six advantages of email archiving from which you can benefit
1) Regulatory compliance
Emails can be stored in their entirety in an authentic, tamper-proof, accessible manner for many years with the help of email archiving. Furthermore, email archiving can also assist with certain eDiscovery scenarios and makes it easier to use emails as evidence in court proceedings.
Especially businesses in heavily regulated industries, e.g. healthcare, financial services, legal or government, have a growing list of regulations and eDiscovery requirements they have to take into account when managing their emails.
2) Protection against data loss
Data that is critical to the company is lost when users delete important emails by accident, at will, or even resign from the company and their entire mailbox is deleted. With email archiving, every email, together with its attachments, remains available and searchable within an archive.
Beyond that, what about cases when disaster strikes? Imagine your email server being defunct or your email service provider having a longer downtime. With a properly working email archive, you have all of your business emails at hand and available, even without hassle for your IT-staff.
3) Elimination of mailbox quotas
We’ve all been there: Your Outlook announces that its mailbox is full, and you can’t receive any new emails. One of your business partners alerts you to the fact that every time they try to send you an email, it’s rejected by your mail server because of your mailbox quota. This isn’t just unpleasant: having to delete emails and attachments one at a time is also time-consuming. Mailbox quotas and these kinds of situations are a thing of the past with email archiving.
When a mail server is out of service or data is lost, every user at the company can still access all emails via the email archive. Companies remain independent from the mail server or their email service provider in this way which makes it easier to carry out their business activities without interruption.
5) Increased efficiency and productivity
The volume of data on the mail server is always kept low with email archiving. This means that backup and recovery times are also quicker. The result is improved performance and leaner backups. Every user can independently restore emails at just the click of a mouse. This way, IT no longer has to go through the time-consuming process of manually restoring lost emails. Even better, a proper email archiving solution enables the users to quickly search through all archived emails and the attachments, which will make them more productive.
6) Long-term solution for PST files
Corrupt PST-files are just as dreaded in day-to-day work as full mailboxes. In this situation, an IT employee can only help restore the files if the PST-files have been backed up. As a result, these file formats put a strain on the IT department because of their susceptibility to error. With the help of email archiving, PST-files can be archived centrally within the company without going to the trouble of changing access permissions.
Backing up is not the same as archiving
The terms archiving and backing up are commonly mistaken as synonyms. For that reason, it is assumed in most cases that backing up alone is sufficient. However, backing up your email server does not replace a proper email archive in any way. A backup can only back up data over a limited period of time and restore it if necessary. However, compliance requirements are not factored in, nor is the constant availability and restorability of highly important emails ensured. Within the scope of a backup, emails can be deleted immediately upon receipt and therefore bypass security. Accordingly, a backup does not help to meet compliance requirements and cannot prevent data loss. Backing up is very important and the right thing to do, but a backup cannot replace the functions of archiving. And don’t forget: the email archive should also be a part of your backup plan!
The Standard in Email Archiving: MailStore Server
Small and medium-sized businesses can benefit from all advantage of modern and secure email archiving with MailStore Server. As well as this, MailStore Server offers a particularly rapid full-text search via email, and many types of file attachments, which allows the user to retrieve their emails from the archive via the Outlook add-in or the Web Access. Users can also retain their usual folder structure and operate their archive as intuitively as possible.
Have fun archiving!