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Email Archiving Strategies

By CIOReview | Wednesday, May 3, 2017

With emails being an integral mode of business communication, the need to preserve them securely for referencing has never been more pronounced. This has been providing the impetus to the various strategies for archiving or backing up emails, in an enterprise environment. Further, with regulations such as SOX, FDA and HIPAA, mandating e-discovery (email discovery—the mandatory archiving of electronic messaging data to be retrieved at a later stage), besides the availability of multiple strategies for archiving, upcoming Smaller and Medium Businesses (SMBs) are examining the aspect in greater detail.

Data archiving and Back-ups

Although data back-up and archive produce the same effect of preserving the data securely for retrieval at a later time, the two are fundamentally different. Data back-ups are usually short term retentions of the data in case the original version is lost. Typically, they are performed at a certain frequency such as a day, week or fortnight. Archives on the other hand, are long term records preserved for future references. They are not associated with any other copies and are governed by strategies laid down by an enterprises or governments. In this context, handling the information communicated over crucial channels such as email, require a robust archiving strategy.

Factors influencing Email Archiving

While the need for archiving emails is clear, finalizing an archiving strategy involves examining various areas such as the resources available with a company, governance policies or even capacity planning. While the requirements may vary between smaller businesses and larger corporations, IT administrators in both the cases are likely to face similar situations. Keeping in mind the requirements and aspects such as scalability to accommodate greater workloads, organizations are likely to opt for a solution that serves them the best.

Archiving Options for Email

As organizations begin to examine their options for archiving, they are confronted by three types of choices—On-Site, Hosted and Hybrid archiving.

On-Site Archiving

There exist numerous products under this category that small and medium businesses can choose from. Among the most popular is Microsoft Exchange Server (MES), which has features for email archiving and message journaling (retaining the information pertaining to electronic messages such as senders and recipients). MES is also flexible with regard to the various government and enterprise policies.

Message Archiver from Barracuda Networks supports features such as stubbing, message compression, storage management, and compliance of policies. Stubbing refers to the removal of attachments from the message and substitute it with a ‘stub’ file, which points to a copy of the original message.

Apart from these, companies have other options such as Symantec Corp.'s Enterprise Vault and Bakbone Software Inc.'s NetVault FASTRecover for Microsoft environments.

Hosted Archiving

This refers to the process of archiving the email content outside the enterprise premises—typically in the infrastructure offered by a service provider. The hosting service is linked to the enterprise mail exchanger at the back-end. Some of the popular hosted email archiving services are provided by Microsoft and Google. Microsoft’s email hosting program offers email filtering, encryption and continuity assurance besides archiving. On the other hand, Google offers archiving services besides its own Gmail service, which typically features storage, calendaring, and a host of other applications such as maps and docs.

Mimecast has also introduced a cloud based email archiving service called Mimecast Services for Exchange (MSE). Subscribers of MSE are entitled to the exchange services for archiving on a SaaS basis.

Hybrid Archiving

The hybrid mode of email archiving typically involves the usage of both in-house infrastructure such as enterprise mail exchange (MX) server, as well as that of an external service provider. Hybrid archiving usually features the integration of the enterprise MX with the service provider’s infrastructure as in the case of hosted archiving. Upon receiving the mails from the enterprise MX, the service provider performs all the services purchased by the company, following which the emails are downloaded back to the enterprise MX or any other email application, which can be accessed by the users. Mimecast turns out to be a major service provider of hybrid email archiving services.


With emails being an integral part of business communication, strategies to archive them can no longer be overlooked. While having dedicated staff to manage the process of email archiving may be affordable for large corporations, SMBs will have to choose between one of the strategies, after carefully weighing the availability of resources.