Small business email archiving solutions explained

Follow these tips and experts advice to help you choose the best small business email archiving solution.

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What you will learn in this tip: The selection of a small business email archiving solution requires careful consideration. In this tip, you'll learn what to look for in an email archiving tool, how to choose among vendors with offerings geared toward smaller businesses and how the cloud is emerging as a potential email archiving solution.

Archiving of corporate email has become a requirement in most businesses today because of tightening governance controls, demands for capacity optimization and growing pressures to reduce costs.

But email archiving isn't just for large corporations: Small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with small IT departments can deploy email archiving solutions after doing some research. Vendors of email archiving solutions have products that appeal to SMBs, but organizations should perform a cost-benefit analysis of the solutions that cater to businesses of their size and industry.

Email archiving solutions have morphed to take advantage of the changing landscape of messaging infrastructure. The traditional approach to email archiving has typically been to use third-party products that sit alongside the primary email infrastructure. Native archiving capabilities of the primary email infrastructure were considered relatively weak, forcing most businesses to look elsewhere for email archiving solutions. This led to products such as Autonomy Zantaz EAS, EMC Corp.’s SourceOne and Symantec Corp.'s Enterprise Vault. All three also offered good integration with messaging solutions like Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Notes and Novell GroupWise.

But developers of messaging software are improving their products’ built-in email archiving function and giving businesses a choice other than a third-party archiving solution. This eliminates the need to maintain a separate archive product and simplifies the messaging infrastructure—including user and quota management.

In the case of Microsoft’s Exchange 2010, many businesses are choosing it because of the native archiving capabilities offered by Exchange. Exchange is credited with reigning in “PST sprawl” and provides users a single view for all of their emails. IBM has also greatly improved the archiving capabilities of its Lotus Domino suite.

This does not mean that the future for third-party products is bleak. Some businesses still choose a separate archive for its capabilities, because of existing relationships with vendors or have email messaging and archiving provided by separate vendors. Businesses that delay upgrades to their messaging infrastructure or plan to deploy a third-party archiving product should  examine the manner in which this product is deployed and maintained. An integrated solution can minimize management overhead, but third-party solutions may be useful to meet unique archiving requirements like compliance.

Choosing a third-party email archiving solution

Businesses deciding on a third-party solution have to decide how their archive will be used: whether the system would store old data on a lower cost tier, for regulatory compliance or simply to save deleted user accounts. A third-party archive also should integrate with any existing messaging or storage infrastructure, which is an important consideration for businesses with limited IT resources and budgets. That integration should be supported by vendors for the archive and messaging system, plus IT should understand how the archive product will connect, discover and store messaging data.

An archive product's capabilities for policy management, search and retrieval, reporting functions, management and user interfaces should be examined in detail. Some enterprise-level products like Symantec Enterprise Vault now offer features such as deduplication and compression. No email archiving solution is complete without being secure—the level of security ranges from basic user-level security, role-based access to encryption. Businesses should examine security capabilities of an email archiving solution in consultation with their security departments or in line with their own corporate guidelines.

Cloud email archiving considerations

With almost all businesses seriously exploring a cloud strategy for their storage and/or compute infrastructure, email archiving solutions should be part of this strategy. Email archiving is best achieved via a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution that businesses simply pay a fixed per-user fee. Emails are archived directly into the cloud and accessible via the web or via an on-premises gateway. Products in this space include Autonomy Zantaz Enterprise Archive Solution (EAS), Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite (BPOS), Live Office and Proofpoint Enterprise Archive. If deploying an on-premises product, businesses should examine options to deploy it on a virtual machine or as standalone appliances—such as Barracuda Networks'. Appliances are especially useful in SMBs to keep storage costs low or keep their email archive data separate from the rest of their storage infrastructure. Such appliances can easily scale to more than 20 TB, which is plenty of storage for email archiving data for SMBs.

First time ingestion should be an important consideration as well, especially when data is being “shipped” offsite into the cloud—this process could easily take several days and may require a fair amount of manual effort in ensuring that there are no gaps or voids. Businesses replacing an existing archiving solution or moving to an off-premises solution should similarly focus on the data migration challenge. Vendors such as TransVault offer migration solutions that make this task relatively easier.

Most small business email archiving solutions are in the mid-single digits range for per-user mailbox. Volume and reseller discounts can skew these numbers greatly so businesses must do their homework on before pulling the trigger. Hosted offerings are generally cheaper because they require little to no capital investment.

Small business email archiving solution shopping list

Businesses shopping around for email archiving solutions should also consider:

  • Total cost of ownership including initial upfront investment, integration and training costs
  • Deployment timeframe and complexity
  • Ongoing support and maintenance, especially with interoperability
  • End-user transparency and ergonomics

After successfully tackled email archiving, businesses should set their sights on the bigger challenge of dealing with unstructured data or semi-structured data, including data stored in collaboration suites such as Microsoft SharePoint. The lessons learned from implementing an email archive solution should show the path forward.

About this author: Ashish Nadkarni is a senior analyst and consultant at Taneja Group. He has nearly two decades of experience managing IT infrastructure. He also has significant amount of experience consulting SMBs and enterprise businesses in the areas of data center infrastructure, Software as-a-Service infrastructure (cloud), and data, systems and storage management.

 

This was first published in June 2011

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