How to Choose an E-mail Archiving Solution

Most businesses are still finding it hard to accept that they need an e-mail archiving solution, simply relying on traditional e-mail backups to solve the problem. But these companies underestimate the value of knowledge that is stored in corporate e-mail. The sheer amount of corporate knowledge stored in e-mail is enough to justify its safekeeping over long periods of time. Knowledge Center contributor Michael H. Bartlett explains why all businesses should use an e-mail archiving solution, and how to choose the right e-mail archiving solution for your company.


For businesses around the world, sending e-mail has become the primary means of communication with people inside and outside of the organization. Business transactions kick off in the form of an e-mail; most customers use e-mail to negotiate contracts and agreements, and to exchange invoices and payment information. E-mail is also heavily used by marketing departments to issue mailshots to customers announcing new offers and special deals.

Our company is no different. We rely heavily on e-mail to communicate with our customers, and to retain important details regarding business obligations and customer expectations. This includes lengthy conversations about confirmed or denied contractual changes and system specifications for a variety of projects between our customers, the sales force, commissioning technicians, and the service and warranty representatives.

Many businesses fail to realize that each e-mail message sent or received is probably the only record they have of important transactions with a customer or between members of staff. Many organizations underestimate the value of knowledge that is stored in corporate e-mail. E-mail contains nearly 75 percent of the information that individuals use on a daily basis. Therefore, the amount of corporate knowledge stored in e-mail is enough to justify its safekeeping over long periods of time.

Why businesses should archive e-mail

Within a single organization, perspectives on e-mail archiving and e-mail management can vary widely. The legal department, for example, sees e-mail as an essential factor in its discovery response strategy. Storage, backups, problematic and corrupt PST files, overloaded e-mail servers, and performance are the IT department's major concerns. The compliance team is concerned about preservation and control issues, while employees want access to all of their e-mail messages from anywhere in the world to improve productivity.

Whichever way you look at the issue, a company can ill afford not to archive e-mail, because it never knows which e-mail message it will need at a future date. That e-mail message may be a "to-do" list compiled by sales, but it may also be an e-mail message that could save a company thousands of dollars in legal fees and fines.

A perfect example comes from an experience we had with one of our customers. We were quickly able to show our company's management team why the investment in an e-mail archiving solution was worthwhile (which proves to be a difficult task for any IT professional). Shortly after installing the e-mail archiving solution, there was a dispute regarding whether or not our technicians had replied to a customer concern about the suitability of a component they were hooking up to a piece of our equipment. While both our technicians and the sales force claimed that they had responded, stating that the component was not compatible, nobody could find the e-mail response to the customer.

But within 5 minutes, my team was able to find the e-mail message using a keyword search, as well as the whole string and conversation. We also found the reason why nobody could find it in their Exchange mailboxes: The e-mail with the key to the puzzle had been sent through a couple of techs and, finally, through a department head who nobody had included in the original list of possible responders.