Many people are using Microsoft Exchange for archiving email and some people do not archive email at all. Both are big mistakes. To find out why, it is important to know what true email archiving actually is.

What is email archiving?

Email archiving means more than just clearing your inbox. An email archive is a technical term used to describe a permanent and unalterable record of email data.

It is important to make a distinction between an email archive and an email backup because the two terms are frequently confused. Both are important, but they are used in different situations.

An email backup is a store of emails that can be recovered in case of emergency. If email data are lost, corrupted, or accidentally deleted, the mailbox can be restored from a backup. Email backups can be used to restore email accounts to the state they were in when the backup was made. Backups therefore need to be performed daily, but also weekly and monthly. Each time a backup is made, it will usually overwrite a previous copy. Email backups are not permanent and are not designed for long term storage.

An email archive is different. It is a tamper-proof repository for the long-term storage of email data. An email archive is useful for disaster recovery, like a backup, but in contrast to a backup, an archive is searchable, which means searches can be performed for specific email data and individual emails can be quickly found and retrieved on demand. Backups cannot easily be searched, which makes finding and recovering individuals emails difficult and time consuming.

Why is it important to have an email archive?

One of the main benefits of an email archive is to reduce the storage space required for mailboxes. Smaller mailboxes are faster to search and retrieve information. The mailbox should only contain a working copy of emails from the last few days or weeks. The remaining emails should be moved to an archive where they can be retrieved as and when necessary. This eases the strain on the email server and improves performance.

Email archiving is a legal requirement in many countries around the world. It is necessary to maintain an email archive to comply with specific industry regulations, as well as country and state laws. An archive is also required for eDiscovery. If legal action is taken against a business, it must be possible for emails, and documents sent via email, to be retrieved. These must be provided during litigation.

eDiscovery can prove extremely expensive if an email archiving solution is not used. If documents or emails are requested they can be quickly found and exported from an archive. If emails need to be obtained from individual computers, or from backups, the time required to locate the emails would be considerable. You may even need to search every computer in your organization! If you run a small business and have 20 computers and email accounts, this would take quite a while. If you run a business with 10,000 computers and email accounts, you could be in real trouble if you don’t have an email archive.

Email archives must be searchable, so the organization of the archive is critical. How so? Well, that is best illustrated with an example. An executive criminal case involving Nortel Networks resulted in 23 million pages of electronic email records being delivered by the prosecution. That is a lot of data. Unfortunately, the information was in a mess because it had not been well organized. So much of a mess that Ontario Superior Court Justice Cary Boswell ordered the prosecution to re-present it to the defense in a comprehensible format. It was described as an “unsearchable morass.”

Organizing 23 million pages of emails takes a considerable amount of time. It is therefore important to get the structure of the archive correct from the outset.

Can I use Microsoft Exchange for archiving email?

Is it possible to use Microsoft Exchange for archiving email?  Since the 2007 version was issued, Microsoft has included the option to use Exchange for archiving email in its journaling and personal archive functions.

However, there is a problem with using Exchange for archiving email. The journaling function does not work as a true email archive. Using Exchange for archiving email can cause many problems.

Reasons why Exchange for archiving email can cause problems for businesses

  • MS Exchange does not allow email in its archive to be effectively indexed and searched
  • Individual email account holders can create personal PSTs and store email on their computers
  • Individual PSTs may not meet the requirements of eDiscovery
  • There are no data retention configuration settings in journaling

The journaling function doesn’t really satisfy the requirements of businesses, but what about the Personal Archive? Can that be used? Unfortunately, while that does offer some enhanced email archiving functionality, using the Personal Archive of Exchange for archiving email will also cause problems.

Let us take a look at the functionality of the personal email archive in the 2010 release. Exchange 2010 is better for email archiving than the 2007 release, but there are still some major issues.

In Exchange 2010, it is possible to create a mailbox archive for each email account. The purpose of the archive is to free up space in the mailbox. This is a get around for restrictive mailbox quotas. The archive is intended to be used as a medium-term store for additional emails that the user does not want to delete, but does not need in the mailbox for day to day operations. They are not really email archives, rather secondary mailboxes. They lack the functionality of a true email archive.

Exchange users have two options for their personal archive, regardless of whether it is located on premises or in the cloud. The archive can be configured to move messages automatically after a set period of time (based on retention tags) or the task can be performed manually as and when required.

There are two main drawbacks to using an Exchange personal archive. For many organizations the main disadvantage is the cost: It is necessary to purchase an enterprise client access license or CAL, or to purchase Office 2010 Professional Plus if Outlook is required.

Even Microsoft points out that it may not be wise to use personal archives in Exchange for archiving email, stating they “may not meet your archiving needs.” Does that seem an odd statement to make? That is because it is not a true email archive, it is a personal archive, which is quite different.

Users are able to choose what information is loaded into the personal archive. They can also delete emails from the archive. That is no good for regulatory compliance and eDiscovery. There is a get around though. It is possible to meet certain eDiscovery and regulatory compliance requirements when using Exchange for archiving email. Users can be given Discovery Management roles, and can perform indexing and multiple mailbox searches. Unfortunately, the Control Panel in Exchange 2010 is difficult to use, especially for eDiscovery purposes.

Some of these issues have been addressed in Exchange 2013, but there are still eDiscovery issues. Users have far too much control over their personal archives and mailboxes. They have the ability to create their own policies and apply personal settings to their mailboxes and archives and can potentially bypass corporate email storage policies. Unfortunately, unless Litigation Hold or In-Place Hold is applied to each and every mailbox, the administrator is incapable of overriding settings that have been applied by each user.

Is it possible to use Microsoft Exchange for archiving email if SharePoint 2013 is used?

The issue of eDiscovery has been tackled by Microsoft. It is possible to use SharePoint 2013 to perform searches of all mailboxes, but there are even problems with this added eDiscovery feature.

For a start, it is necessary to buy SharePoint 2013 (or later versions) and that has a cost implication. It is also necessary to use cloud storage and keep the data on an Exchange server, otherwise the In-Place Discovery tools of Exchange will not work.

There is another issue. That is the storage space you will require. Every email that has ever been sent or received through MS Exchange will need to be stored. Over time your email “archive” will become immense. Over 90% of the emails stored in that archive will never need to be accessed. It will involve paying an unnecessary cost and searching through all those emails will take a long time. Recovering emails will be particularly slow.

A true archive will remove a significant proportion of the 90% of emails that you will never need to access, and search and recovery time can be greatly reduced.

You cannot consider the archiving function of MS Exchange to be a true email archive that will meet all compliance and eDiscovery needs.

Important Considerations for GDPR Compliance

In May 2018, the EU´s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) took effect. The regulation requires strong measures to be put in place to prevent the loss, theft, or unauthorized disclosure of emails containing the personal data of EU citizens. Measures are also required to prevent the unauthorized modification of email data and policies must be introduced to delete emails once the lawful basis for retaining them has expired.

GDPR also gives citizens rights about how their personal data is obtained, processed, shared, and retained. Citizens can request access to their personal data, check that it is up-to-date and complete, and request it is deleted under certain circumstances. In order to respond to data access requests within the thirty days allowed, companies should have an indexed, searchable method of complying with the requests – something not guaranteed with Microsoft Exchange.

It is also important to note that GDPR applies to every company that obtains, processes, shares or retains EU citizens´ personal data regardless of where the company is located. Non-compliance with GDPR can result in fines of up to €20 million (c. $24.5 million) or 4% of global turnover, so it is recommended companies using Microsoft Exchange – with or without SharePoint 2013 – adopt a new approach to email archiving.

The ArcTitan approach to email archiving

ArcTitan is a true email archiving solution that has been custom designed to meet compliance and eDiscovery requirements, and meet all data retention requirements. ArcTitan is a cloud-based email archiving solution that stores archived email data on Replicated Persistent Storage on AWS S3 and all email data is backed up automatically.

Email archiving takes place at a rate of 200 messages a second and when searches need to be performed, email recovery is lightning fast. You can search  your archive at a rate of 30 million emails a second.

ArcTitan acts as a black box flight recorder for your email and will ensure that come what may, you will never lose an email again.

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