Guest Column | July 23, 2009

Email Archiving For Your Business


Written by: By Walter Scott, CEO, GFI

Email archiving is not just the backup system for a company’s communications; it is a regulatory requirement for many businesses in the United States. Often overlooked and dismissed in the past, email archiving is becoming the biggest storage and security issue in IT.

The primary purpose of the email archiving function of any system is to reduce the load on the email server, improve performance, and keep communications flowing quickly and freely. The secondary function of archiving is then to act as long-term storage for all the company’s email communications, while allowing for easy and quick retrieval of any required emails; preferably by the employees themselves.

While storage capacity has increased on most email servers, the volume of email traffic, coupled with the ever-growing size of attachments, has resulted in email users requiring more and more space on the server. Administrators are forced to offload or delete email to maintain storage quotas. With the majority of business communication being carried out via email, it is essential to have a record of all emails being sent and received, therefore, deleting email is the least desirable option. This is where email archiving comes into play, as email servers are not designed for long-term storage.

Consequently, it is necessary to move email files from the email server to a permanent storage facility. In simpler terms, it is the same as moving the customer or projects’ files from the filing cabinet in the office to an archiving storage facility offsite with the exception that everyone in the company retains full access to old files. A good email archiving system will include an efficient search and retrieval system for stored emails, but also the necessary security features in place to make sure it is tamper proof.

Besides keeping the movement of communications free flowing in an organization, an email archiving system can also keep information safe from corruption. Frequent Microsoft Outlook users probably know how prone to corruption PST files can be. Also working with PST files over 2 GB in size will guarantee a very sluggish performance! Systems administrators have to back up those huge files over the network, which could be a painfully slow and time-consuming process.

Retrieval of a single email using standard backup could take weeks, as opposed to the minutes most users have come to expect from technology. Today’s email archiving systems have had to quickly develop to become more useful and more reliable than previous incarnations.

Although some businesses may still think of email as an ephemeral means of correspondence, like a phone call, it is actually one of the most concrete means of communication in today’s world. Emails can be traced, stored, and endlessly copied. This makes them both extremely useful and potentially dangerous.

Keeping a secure and timely archive of all emails passing through an organization is essential to corporate protection. Emails are considered auditable documents by the federal government and should be treated like all other business paperwork – archived and stored in such a way as to be retrievable and complete when needed. All organizations, private, public or government, are required to maintain copies of all electronically generated data for legal discovery purposes

Some companies may not realize that in recent years email archiving has become a regulatory requirement, particularly for publicly traded companies. A number of SEC and federal government regulatory bodies now require the storage of all email correspondence for a number of years. These include the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the U.S. Patriot Act, the Gramm-Leach-Biley Act, and others. Essentially all of these regulations and laws require the storage of all electronic correspondence in a secure manner that can be easily queried. That means losing emails to poor backup solutions or not being able to extract necessary documents is not only professionally detrimental, but potentially legally detrimental as well. Organizations may face harsh fines, course sanctions, and, inevitably, some loss of credibility.

Fortunately, there has been an increase in the number of email archiving software packages available on the market that not only archive, but allow for quick and efficient retrieval as well – a function that had been missing from many previous generations of email archives. Common sense and a desire for good record keeping should make email archiving an obvious requirement for business today, and now the technology has caught up with these necessary functions.

Prior to becoming CEO of GFI, Walter Scott served as the CEO of Acronis, a provider of scalable storage management and disaster recovery software. Prior to that, he was CEO of Imceda Software. He started his career in sales with Banyan Systems.