E-mail archiving solutions
Now that the reasons to archive e-mail have been clearly identified, it is important to examine the three main types of archiving solutions available to help you choose the type of solution that will work best for your corporation:
The first, the on-premises or in-house option, will involve the purchase and installation of storage hardware and software for policy enforcement.
The second option is to contract with a hosted provider that delivers archiving as a hosted service.
Finally, businesses can deploy a hybrid solution that combines certain elements of the in-house and hosted models.
Understanding the differences between these solutions is critical when trying to determine what is best for your business. Let's take a closer look at each.
On-premises or in-house archiving solutions
To deploy an e-mail archiving solution in-house, an organization must define requirements, develop or purchase appropriate software, and buy the needed hardware. With the large amount of e-mail data that most organizations send and receive, archiving requires a significant amount of storage hardware.
In-house e-mail archiving solutions typically use a dedicated, server-based platform that copies all e-mail from the message store into an archive. Some solutions also require that software be installed on all employees' PCs to facilitate searching and retrieval. In-house solutions offer a high level of control and data security, as well as convenient integration with other systems in the organization's existing infrastructure. However, these solutions can be costly to acquire and often require dedicated, skilled personnel to maintain.
When considering an on-premises e-mail archiving solution, organizations should also consider the additional infrastructure, maintenance and facility costs associated with deploying duplicate systems in remote locations-if they want to ensure true disaster recovery capabilities.
Hosted archiving solutions
An alternative to the in-house approach is to choose a hosted solution. This allows a company to archive its data at a third-party location, reducing the burden on internal IT resources. Outsourcing also allows a company to avoid the substantial cost of buying hardware and software, as well as the inconvenience of maintaining an archiving system.
However, a serious concern with some hosted solutions is a lack of data security. By storing confidential e-mail data at an external location, a business may open itself up to security breaches or HIPAA privacy concerns. In many hosted solutions, archived data is not stored in encrypted form, posing an even greater risk. In addition, without direct integration with the organization's e-mail server, management of archives can be an additional challenge.
SAAS hybrid archiving solutions
A third approach that is emerging is the SAAS (software-as-a-service) hybrid model. The typical setup involves an appliance installed at the customer's site, combined with secure storage managed "in the cloud" by a third-party provider. In some cases, encryption is performed before the data leaves the customer location, ensuring the content of archived e-mail can never be accessed from outside the customer's own network. The hybrid approach combines the convenience of a hosted solution with the more robust features and security of on-premises solutions.
The hybrid model is based on the idea that customers want security and easy integration, but also wish to avoid the high costs and inconvenience of acquiring and managing large amounts of storage. And, of course, storage costs are not the only consideration. In-house solutions typically require high levels of administration, maintenance and ongoing support. As organizations better understand the long-term costs and maintenance required to archive e-mail, the hybrid model is likely to become a common approach.
Clearly, e-mail use within the corporate environment will only continue to rise. It is estimated that worldwide e-mail traffic increased by 35 percent in 2004, totaling 76.8 billion messages per day. Corporate e-mails accounted for 83 percent of this traffic. If left unchecked, corporate e-mail can leave a business vulnerable. As e-mail messages increasingly take center stage in headlines and lawsuits, it has become the electronic equivalent of DNA evidence. Having a system in place that takes this risk into account is crucial for businesses that don't want to end up at the center of one of these scandals.
With regulatory compliance, legal discovery and storage management concerns growing, the question is not if your organization will need an archiving solution, but rather, when it will need one. Even if your organization isn't ready yet, start evaluating the key risks, rewards and reasons for archiving now. You will be in a better position to make the right choice when the time comes.
Over the years, Rick has also worked with dozens of smaller high-tech companies, consulting on the development of business strategies to propel long-term growth. Rick received his Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree from Wilfrid Laurier University. He can be reached at [email protected].