Email archiving is 20 years old, but there are still companies that are reluctant to adopt it. The rationale is often monetary – for small and medium-sized businesses in unregulated industries, an archive often seems like a costly and inessential project.
Since email archiving is mandated in regulated industries such as healthcare and pharmaceutical, financial, K-12 and higher education, transportation and all levels of government, there is a misconception that it’s only done for compliance purposes. In reality, email archiving benefits go way beyond that.
What is the point of archiving emails?
Email archiving is a process in which every email that circulates through an organization is copied, indexed and stored in a tamper-proof format with the purpose of easy access and retrieval in daily operations. Occasionally, archived email records are used to defend an organization in a legal case or to prove that the organization operates according to various state or industry standards.
Before we start with our ultimate list of 20 email archiving benefits, here are the top 10 reasons why every company should archive email:
- Regulatory compliance
- Storage management
- End-user monitoring
- IT productivity
- Corporate knowledge base
- Information requests
- Prevention of data corruption
- Advanced analytics
- Organizational advantages
1. Regulatory compliance
This is the logical number one on our list, since every business is required to comply with regulations on how they manage their data and because compliance remains the number one driver of archiving, after all. As email is the main form of communication, it’s also an important corporate record so it must be stored correctly. One of the key benefits of email archiving is that it stores your email in compliance with all data storage legislation.
The strict regulatory environment is one of the major drivers behind the demand for email archiving solutions, at least for highly regulated industries like financial services, healthcare, government or education. With more than 9,000 compliance regulations in the US only, archiving email (and other digital communications) is mandatory for many.
2. Storage management
Many organizations wrongly believe that storing email on live servers or using built-in archiving features of their email platforms can solve their email accumulation troubles. In reality, one in every four organizations experiences storage management growth of 25% per year.
This growth is largely attributed to email use and the ever-growing attachment size. When organizations impose email quotas, they do so to prevent infinite storage growth and poor server performance. By storing your email archive off your email server, you save space, prevent server overload and allow IT teams to abandon quotas entirely. This benefits smaller businesses in particular.
Another major email archiving benefit is that it helps organizations prepare for ediscovery. We all hope we can avoid lawsuits, but in reality, more than 80% of US companies are currently involved in some kind of litigation. Because email is an important corporate record, you will need to provide email records if your company is ever involved in a lawsuit.
As most documentation and communication is now electronic, and a vast part of potential evidence is contained in emails and attachments, companies are regularly asked to disclose email content in the initial stages of the legal process.
To be able to locate all emails relevant to the case, IT managers need to browse entire email histories. Then they need to place legal hold on those emails to prevent any deliberate deletion, alteration and destruction of evidence. Finally, they need to review everything and export it to some of the accepted formats.
Unfortunately, many organizations fully understand the benefits of email archiving only when faced with a court case. Retrieving email data from live servers is both time-consuming and costly. MarketWatch has recently reported that some Fortune 1000 companies spend $5-10 million annually on ediscovery. This is largely because they lack appropriate ediscovery programs, just like 75% of CIOs within the US Government (Deloitte).
An email archiving solution allows IT and legal departments to search and filter emails, apply litigation holds, and ensure a smooth ediscovery process without paying thousands of dollars to external legal teams for data retrieval.
4. End-user monitoring
Although most messages your employees and colleagues exchange are business-related, sometimes there’s more to it. With an email archive, you can define policies, set rules and keywords that can signal employee misconduct. When a specified word is used, your compliance officers and admis will be notified.
This can help your HR team detect workplace disputes, and prevent more serious breaches such as sexual harassment, mobbing or fraud. This is an especially useful feature for the education industry, where student safety is vitally important.
5. IT productivity
Locating a single elusive email can turn into a nightmare for your employees, who then reach out to IT for retrieval support. That’s fine, but your IT team already have their hands full. A fully searchable archive with easy export, restore, download and forward options will save a lot of time and trouble to everyone involved.
6. Corporate knowledge base
Even if your organization belongs to an unregulated industry, your email archive will be a vast repository of corporate knowledge. In the last couple of years, this is considered a key advantage of email archiving. Which employee takes the longest to respond to an email? Who’s the typical go-to person in your IT team? Which topics are discussed the most? Such data might give you vital insight into your organization that you might not be able to get otherwise.
7. Information requests
Legislation such as FOIA, Sunshine Laws or FIPPA allows anyone to access any record that is held or controlled by an institution on any issue and is subject to the exclusions and exceptions set out in the act. Data records can be anything, including communications about procurement, employees, finances and budgets.
A lot of these communications take place through email. If you work for a government agency, school or a hospital, information requests are a regular part of your work. An email archiving solution will speed up the process and help you meet the often short deadlines.
8. Prevention of data corruption
Data corruption is a reality, no matter how diligently you store your electronic information. However, one of the major benefits of email archiving is the long-term storage of data with no corruption or errors.
Companies archive email precisely because they want these records to be there when they need them. Whether you need your archived data for regulatory compliance, litigation or simply for productivity purposes, you need it archived safely.
There are several features in email archiving that prevent data corruption. ECC RAM and self-healing storage technology such as ZFS ensure that the data stored on disks cannot be lost due to physical error, silent bit rot and data corruption. ZFS is designed for long-term storage of important information and has the ability to neutralize data corruption and can even rebuild RAID arrays. Read more about data corruption and ZFS.
9. Advanced analytics
Email archiving solutions are no longer used just for passive storage and retrieval – they have become indispensable in information governance and business analytics. Thanks to advanced AI algorithms, your C-level executives, HR and legal teams can draw conclusions from such message intelligence features and look into communication patterns, detect rogue employees or prevent conflicts before they escalate.
10. Organizational advantages
A high-quality email archiving solution comes with customizable user roles and permissions. This means that you can organize email access the way you deem best – by creating custom roles or limiting access to end users. Regular employees will benefit from being able to freely delete email from their mailboxes, knowing that there is a perfectly organized and easily searchable repository that they can rely on for reference whenever the need arises.
11. Unified repository
With email archiving, organizations centralize communication records, which are otherwise distributed across various devices or servers. When all company email is not contained in a single location, retrieving it requires a lot of effort and is both time-consuming and expensive.
Having a centralized “information vault” gains even more importance when we think about all the alternative channels that today’s organizations use for business communication – internal chat and record-keeping systems, WhatsApp, Zoom video calls, official social media accounts, phone calls, to name a few. All these channels contain business records and, as such, need to be retained. Modern archiving software can archive these new data types alongside email and allow integrative search through everything at once.
12. Feature set
Until recently, smaller companies were reluctant to implement third-party archiving solutions due to higher costs. However, they too no longer believe that the archiving features contained within email platforms can get the job done.
In Exchange and O365, several crucial features are missing. For example, the advanced search feature is extremely limited, and audit log is nonexistent. Many native solutions do not support storage-saving features such as deduplication and single-instance storage of attachments. We provided a detailed overview of must-have email archiving features in our guide on how to choose the best email archiving solution for your business.
13. Audit trail
Another key benefit of email archiving solutions is that they enable admins and compliance officers to perform audits and establish a high level of control. The audit feature provides a read-only log which is used to track activities in the archiving software. It also allows authorized staff members to view the history of activities of a specific user (or another compliance officer) within a specific date range.
If an employee attempts to access information they’re not authorized to access, this activity will be recorded in the audit trail. Admins and compliance managers can check whether specific keywords have been searched, which users looked for what data, whether they attempted to modify certain retention rules or whether somebody tried to overstep their authority.
14. Insights for all departments
Although IT and compliance teams work directly with the email archiving software, many other departments can reach conclusions based on the information housed in your archive. There are clues in email content and metadata that can be translated into actionable information. Your management, HR and legal teams will be able to benefit the most. You can learn more in our guide on email archiving benefits for all departments: management, IT, legal and end-users.
15. Data verification
Since email can be used as evidence, it’s vital that your organization can prove that the emails have been archived in their original state and remained intact while in the archive. 96% of litigators who work in the ediscovery industry say that the time and date stamp within metadata is the most vital information for their cases. These authenticity and message integrity verification features help to prove that a specific email has not been manipulated or tampered with, minimize legal risk and help with ediscovery or internal investigations.
16. Policy management
Email archiving solutions are there for you to ensure that your emails are retained in accordance with legal and regulatory requirements. Creating retention policies is a key measure here. The global retention policy will need to reflect the email retention laws relevant to your industry and contain guidelines regarding email deletion. We wrote about this in detail in our guide on email retention policy best practices.
Implementing an email archiving solution initially might be considered an unnecessary cost. However, companies quickly see the benefits – it only takes one ediscovery case or a non-compliance fine to understand the archive’s true value.
18. Disaster recovery
Some companies want to add a second layer of data protection and security by mirroring the archived data to a DR solution. Such an email archiving setup allows them to have uninterrupted access to information and maintain business continuity in case of natural or man-made disasters. This is an absolute priority for large enterprises, government agencies and organizations in the financial sector.
Email archiving solutions typically integrate with all major email platforms. Some contain features like the Outlook plugin, which let users access the archive directly from Outlook, which saves time and allows them to use a familiar interface.
The majority or archiving solutions now support add-ons for the retention of communication channels other than email. As our business habits and retention laws change, many organizations are now required to archive social media, mobile communications, website and files. Having a single repository that can house all this data offers incredible advantages and is more cost-effective than purchasing all these solutions separately.
20. Just outsource the risk!
In today’s information age, everyone has a lot on their mind. Managing email communications is just one on a long list of everyday tasks – the average employee spends 28% of the workweek reading and responding to email. That’s 13 hours a week. Email archiving is an automated process that works in the background and saves hours of tedious email management.
Jatheon is a global leader in enterprise information archiving with 15+ years of experience in providing on-premise, cloud and virtual archiving solutions to regulated industries. To learn more about our solutions, contact us or schedule a personal demo.