Small business email archiving services primer

In this podcast interview, find out about the challenges SMBs face with email archiving, the different types of email archiving services, hybrid email archiving and affordable products for SMBs.

As the amount of emails continues to grow, many companies, including small-to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), must consider whether or not it's important to implement email archiving services. The benefits of email archiving services include low operational costs, the ability to access data for e-discovery and litigation purposes, and low staffing costs. But companies also face challenges with email archiving. It can be hard to decide what emails or email accounts to archive, and it's sometimes difficult for companies to decide between in-house email archiving services or outsourced email archiving services.

In this interview, Brian Babineau, vice president of research and analyst services at the Enterprise Strategy Group, discusses email archiving services for SMBs. Find out what specific challenges SMBs face when it comes to email archiving, the differences between in-house and outsourced email archiving services, hybrid email archiving and affordable small business email archiving products. Read the transcript below or download the MP3.

Listen to the email archiving services Q&A

>> What are the specific challenges SMBs face with email archiving?
>> Do all companies need to worry about email archiving?
>> What's the difference between in-house and outsourced email archiving services?
>> When should you use a hybrid email archiving service?
>> What are some affordable email archiving products for SMBs?

What are the specific challenges SMBs face when it comes to email archiving?

I think we can split the challenges SMBs face into two categories. The first really has nothing to do with technology, it’s more around policies, and the second is the challenges associated with actually implementing email archiving.

If you look at the first category, it’s important for organizations to figure out why they’re archiving and what their policies are. This includes how long they’re going to keep messages, whose messages they want to archive, what mailboxes are part of the scheme, and how long to archive. And then it comes to the technology challenges and how they want to retain these messages. Do they want to retain them in the same environment as their primary email storage or a separate environment? And then the challenges persist from there -- what technologies do they want to choose, how big do they want their archives to get, who has access to the archives, etc. So they really have to think about the business issues if they’re going to archive, and then how they’re actually going to do it.

Do all companies need to worry about email archiving?

Not all companies need to worry about email archiving, but we highly recommend all companies consider archiving because email growth is roughly 20% to 30% per year, and that’s even when you account for the impact of social networking, text messaging and other communication methodologies. So despite all of those other ways to communicate with each other, email continues to grow.

And of course there’s regulatory compliance and electronic discovery risks. These things don’t impact only large organizations. They can impact a company of any size, whether they’re one or two people or one or 2,000 employees.

We don’t think it’s something you necessarily need to worry about, but it’s something you should consider if you’re a reasonably healthy organization with a good amount of email usage.

There are two main choices for archiving emails, either archiving them out of house, or in-house. What are the pros and cons of each choice? Is one better than the other for small businesses?

The two options really are do you want to deploy an archive solution internally, or on-premise, or do you want to leverage it as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) where you’re archiving messages outside to a service provider? When you look at the internal on-premise deployment option, the pros are you have control over that environment. You set up the software, you own the infrastructure, and you determine what the server and storage profile is of that email archive environment. There are also usually performance benefits because that infrastructure is local. There are also no worries about who potentially could access those messages because it’s within your own firewall and it’s a self-contained solution.

The cons are that you actually have to go out and purchase an email archive software solution and the supporting infrastructure, and you have to configure it, run it, optimize it, tune it, and any other things.

Alternatively, the SaaS, or the outsourced email archives option, is the flipside of that. The pros are that you can usually get it up and running pretty quickly; it usually only requires a few configuration changes in your mail system. Employees can actually get access to them reasonably quickly. And it has a fairly predictable cost because it has a recurring fee.

The cons are that you do have to do configurations. There is a little user-interface disruption because not all solutions allow you to access archived or SaaS-archived messages via your Outlook or Lotus interface. You usually have to go to a link or a website to get access to those messages. Sometimes there’s a disrupted user experience. And then there are the intricacies as to whether can you support a Blackberry, Blackberry messages and archived Blackberry messages, and those challenges expand over both the on-premise and the SaaS archives.

If I had to pick which one is good for an SMB, the most obvious choice is SaaS because most SMBs don’t have the IT staff to actually set up and configure an email archive, and some of our research suggests some of the archives has tripled or quadrupled for SMBs over the past four years. And when you’re talking about that type of data growth it gets cumbersome for an already overburdened smaller IT staff.

If we were talking about the enterprise customer, then it’s a very hefty dialogue as to whether on-premise or SaaS makes sense for them.

When is it a good idea to use a hybrid email archiving service?

A hybrid email archiving service is where you leverage the SaaS solution so that there may be some small deployment within the firewall -- usually a plug-in to an Exchange or Lotus application, but basically all of the messages and archived data themselves sit as a SaaS provider. And I think the right way to think about the hybrid is that the plug-ins that sit locally solve or address some of the user interface problems because they allow your archived inbox to present itself in your email client like Outlook. The user experience is more transparent, but you don’t have the burden of actually looking at all of the archives or having to manage all of the archive infrastructure. In other words, you don’t have to worry about message growth, tuning the system or configuring things. With a hybrid email archiving service, you end up getting the user experience because you have some plug-ins and interface enhancements, but you also get the benefit of not having to run the archive infrastructure within your own facility.

Can you talk about some examples of affordable products for email archiving that are geared towards the SMB?

When you look at SaaS options in the marketplace right now most are affordable because there’s no upfront license fee. There’s usually a small setup fee or maybe a data migration fee if you want to move things to the SaaS, but there’s no upfront fee and they charge you per month per mailbox. And some of the offerings in the marketplace have unlimited storage, so they don’t care how long you archive or how much data you archive, the only fee is the per mailbox to be archived.

Companies have to consider that there can be compliance requirements or e-discovery access requirements that will increase that price per month, but overall most SaaS options are very straightforward with a monthly fee per mailbox, unlimited storage and unlimited retention policies. So that’s a great way to get started. Those kinds of services are available from Dell, Mimecast, LiveOffice, and Iron Mountain Inc. They all have offerings in that regard and are options that companies could consider going forward.

This was first published in March 2011

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