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Given the amount of storage space email requires, every organization needs a system that will improve email performance, cut storage costs and comply with any regulations in place. In addition to these factors, security is a factor as well. Email isn’t going away anytime in the near future, so organizations must invest in quality email archiving. However, some might not know what that means or may be wary of a major investment. With that in mind, we wanted to dispel some myths and answer some questions you might have about email archiving. For more information about email archiving and other infrastructure services, please contact a General Networks representative today.

What have been past solutions to the explosion of email in office communications and why aren’t they viable in today’s environment?

Initially, emails were simple –  small text messages sent between parties.  Over time, email became a way to exchange messages and files.   These files grew in size from simple documents or spreadsheets to much larger photo, audio and video files.  This explosive storage growth has lead to issues with both the ever increasing cost of the Tier-1 storage required for Exchange and companies’ abilities to complete backup jobs on a timely basis.  As user mailboxes grew in size, often users were forced to create local PST archive files for older emails.   These PST files create additional storage and backup challenges on the network.   .  

What is the difference between archiving and backup?

Data backup provides a restorable copy of the entries in the email data base as of a certain point in time.  Backups are required to allow for the restoration of the email Post Office in case there is a major hardware failure or data base corruption.  If your retention policy includes multiple daily, weekly and monthly backups, the system administrator can restore to a specific date.  

An email archive captures all mail (internal and Internet) as a permanent record.   Even if users delete the email from their inbox or sent items, the entries remain in the email archive data base.   Email archive solutions are installed for a number of reasons. 

  • Compliance – Email retention and litigation hold.  Firms in some industries are required to keep all emails and text communications for at least 7 years.  Employers are required by law to be able to reproduce all emails in the event of a lawsuit where email communications can be used as evidence. 
  • Reducing the size of the Exchange Post Office – Attachments make up a majority of the size of the email Post Office.  Attachment stubbing removes the attachments from the Exchange data base and stores them in the archive data base.  This reduces the size of the Post Office, improving Post Office performance.  The single instance storage in the archive data base reduces the amount of data stored in the archive system.
  • PST management – Implementing a corporate wide email archive solution will remove the pesky individual archives (PST) files that can be troublesome for system administrators to manage and backup.   

How can archiving save on storage and costs?

With Exchange 2010 & 2013, Microsoft has done away with single instance storage.   That means that with each user that receives an attachment, a copy of that attachment is stored in Exchange.   For example, if an email is sent out with a PowerPoint file to 25 users, there are 25 copies of that PowerPoint file saved in Exchange.   With an email archive solution in place, the attachments are removed from the email database and a single copy of the attachment is saved on the archive system.  This can reduce the size of the Exchange data base by as much as 80%, saving the client on the cost of expensive Tier-1 storage.   Reducing the size of the Exchange data base improves the performance of the email system as well as reduces the nightly backup window and the time to restore from backup, if necessary.   

Should you invest in email archving before an email migration?

Installing an email archive solution before a mail migration can be a way to reduce the time and expense of an email migration.   Like we said, an email archive solution can reduce the size of your active mailboxes by as much as 80%, and that reduction will allow the migration to go much faster and smoother.  Getting the email archive solution implemented before the migration can make for a faster email migration.   

Obviously there are different archiving technology solutions out there. What are some key features an organization should look for?

  1. If the client is in a specific industry that has compliance requirements, does the platform specifically support those compliance needs?  
  2. Does the email archive solution work with the current email platform and also work with the next email platform that you might migrate to in the future? 
  3. Does the platform provide the users with a self-service access to all email, whether that email is in the active mailbox or only on the archive system?  

Are there any advantages or disadvantages with an on premise solution versus a cloud-based system?

Cloud based email archive solutions do not require an up front investment in hardware or software.  The cloud based vendor provides ongoing server patching, system monitoring, backup of that data and disaster recovery data replication.   Customers simply pay a per-user per-month fee for the service.  We have seen some cloud vendors charge a setup fee and data import fees to upload historical emails.  Hosted email and hosted email archives will require better Internet bandwidth to provide proper performance of the email system for end users.

On premise email archive solutions will require an upfront investment in hardware, software and implementation fees.  The on premise solution may cost less over time than the cloud service; that calculation  needs to be done on a client by client basis.  The client system administrator will need to backup the data on the email archive system as part of the nightly backup routine.   Ongoing system updates may be provided automatically by the vendor or may need to be applied by the local system administrator.  Typically, an on premise solution can automatically import all historical email from the current system and import PST files from servers or user workstations.      

Can you speak briefly on how General Networks designs and completes an email archiving project?

We start with an assessment of the client’s needs. We are looking for answers to the following questions:

  • Are they in an industry with compliance issues (Financial Services, Medical, …)?  
  • What issues are they trying to address by adding an email archive solution into their network? 
  • What system is currently in use, how large is the email store and what is the user count? 
  • Are there both PCs and Macs in the client environment? 
  • What features do the users within the organization need the email archive solution to address?  

Once we have gathered this information, we can propose one or more solutions to address the client requirements.   We can arrange demonstrations of the various platforms, and once the client decides on the platform, we can assist with the installation and ongoing support.