Today’s business communication is heavily regulated and dispute-oriented. That’s why organizations need to preserving communication records, especially if they operate in a regulated industry like financial or government.
That’s why most of them use data archiving solutions. But before we switched to Slack, Teams or Zoom, all electronic communication was done via email. For this reason, email archiving is one of the best-established data retention strategies.
Let’s see what it means.
What Is Email Archiving?
Email archiving is the process that allows companies to store email securely and makes it easy to search and retrieve them while reducing the load on mail servers. Essentially, it helps to store email that you don’t need immediate access to, but lets you find them when necessary.
Email archiving is necessary for organizations that wish to have full compliance and avoid legal fines and penalties. Email retention laws and freedom of information acts mandate keeping records and archives of all email communications in an organization.
To meet these requirements, companies usually use email archiving solutions.
What Are the Benefits of Email Archiving?
So what are the main benefits of email archiving?
Here are some top things to consider:
1. Compliance and ediscovery
Compliance and ediscovery are the chief drivers for companies to take on email archiving solutions.
In the US alone, there are over 20 federal and state laws that mandate email retention for a certain number of years. Due to data protection laws and privacy legislation, organizations are today mandated to keep records of all communications and data, including email communications.
Email records are increasingly called upon for evidence in legal cases, either to protect organizations or even incriminate them.
If organizations are unable to produce email data when called upon by the courts or the authorities, they can face huge penalties.
Taking on a comprehensive archiving solution which allows data management and search (or eddiscovery) covers organizations and leaves them better prepared when records are requested.
2. Improved network performance
Research has shown that network performance is greatly improved when opting for an email archiving solution. When old mail is not being kept on the server, performance and speed increases because your communication channels aren’t being clogged up.
Archiving email will let you free up the burden of accumulating data locally, which translates into an upgraded system performance.
3. Risk management
One of the most popular drivers for email archiving is improved risk management. Having all email archived in the same location means a “paper trail” can be followed when legal proceedings or disputes arise.
When personal devices are being used to store email, risks appear in the form of loss and theft and these are negated when using a central archiving solution.
Likewise, with most employees there can be a temptation to use corporate email inappropriately. Knowing that all email is archived permanently usually acts as a deterrent.
4. Productivity and continuity
Employee productivity and business continuity are two major benefactors from a centralized email archiving solution.
When email is archived centrally, the searchable nature of an email archiving solution saves a lot of time and improves knowledge management by providing fast access to the organization’s database.
Likewise, continuity for the business is guaranteed when email is automatically archived, even when systems crash or employees quit.
5. Corporate knowledge management
The search function of an email archive is vastly superior to simple backups. In turn, this creates user-friendly knowledge management.
For instance, if you have a client who is no longer in your database, but need to retrieve an old email from them, archiving makes searching that email fast and easy. Think of color coded tabs on manila folders, then think of those in the context of computing speeds.
6. No more email quotas
No doubt the email quotas can force users to delete emails which need to be kept for compliance.
Often times, because there are quotas on exactly how many emails an individual may retain, employees may be forced to send an important document to the bin without understanding the importance of the email.
Emails are fantastic for their speed and ease of use, therefore, even more documents are being sent via email, either as images or text. For the former, images use quite a bit more space than do their text-based cousins.
So, another great point about archives is that they will ultimately save you storage space and end the need for individual quotas.
7. User-based email restoration
Your administrators can save valuable time because end users will be able to restore email records themselves. No more superfluous helpdesk calls and tedious, time-consuming tasks.
8. Make your upgrades and migrations simple
With email archiving, any future email server upgrades or migrations are made simpler. It works like this: because your archives are essentially a different storage location, your current email database is, in effect, much smaller.
All of your old emails are stored in the archive, and this enables IT to move the database much more quickly, with increased security and less of a risk for data corruption.
Email archiving, then, acts as a way of streamlining your current email database for greater portability and security.
9. Make disaster recovery a snap
Email archives differ from ordinary backups. Both are essential for data security.
If your network fails and you are forced into a position where you must restore your database, you still require a complete backup of that database.
However, with the added advantage of email archiving, if your database backup is also corrupt, you can restore that via the archive. It’s basically a win-win situation because you have two separate locations from which you can entirely restore your database. Disaster Recovery (DR) becomes significantly more manageable.
The added security is well worth the relatively small amount of time it takes to implement the archive.
These are only the most important advantages that email archiving brings. For others, you can check this dedicated guide with 20 email archiving benefits.
Bottom line: email archiving is a multifaceted solution with plenty of cross-functional benefits.
Email Archiving Best Practices
If you want to ensure your business is on the right track in this area, the list of email archiving best practices will help you.
1. Review agency regulations and federal laws
Depending on your business’s industry, you could be obliged to comply with laws and regulations that define specific record retention requirements.
If your organization does not follow these regulations, those responsible for compliance could face sky-high penalties or even prison time. Your organization’s reputation would also be damaged.
For instance, health care providers need to follow the HITECH and HIPAA. These acts set strict criteria for how organizations can electronically transmit sensitive and protected health information and how the electronic records sent via email must be archived.
That’s why one of email archiving best practices is thoroughly checking all relevant laws to avoid such possible adverse outcomes. This way, you can assure that your email archiving system complies with the regulations.
2. Turn to Your Legal Experts When Crafting Retention Policies
Another crucial part of email archiving best practices is establishing your company’s email retention policies. However, to ensure compliance with all the laws and regulations, make sure you include your legal team when creating the policies.
Your legal team has expert knowledge of which regulations your organization is subject to; they know all the requirements related to record retention and are familiar with the specific jargon used in them.
After all, as it is your legal team’s job to protect the company legally, make good use of that specific resource when crafting your retention policies. For additional information in this area, you can read more about the best practices when creating an email retention policy.
3. Build an “A-Team”
However, the legal team should not be the only subject consulted when drafting your organization’s retention policies.
Many other parties should play a role in creating these policies to ensure you follow email archiving best practices. To get a better idea of who to include, here is a short list of such parties:
- your stakeholders,
- administration team,
- compliance team / DPO
- finance team,
- production team,
- engineers, etc.
You should consider including a member of each department or team and forming an A-team accountable for dealing with this issue. This way, you will ensure that every business level is up to date and on the same page regarding email archiving and retention periods.
4. Define an Optimal Retention Period (or More Periods)
To align with email archiving best practices, create archiving policies that include an optimal, “high-water mark” retention period. Such a retention time would meet the requirements for many different regulations. This way, you can streamline your employees’ compliance and ensure your business is covered.
The recommended retention time for archiving emails can vary enormously from one regulation to another, even for various rules used in the same industry.
Following a single retention policy can be challenging for your employees, let alone multiple guidelines with varying retention periods.
For instance, your organization may be subjected to three significant regulations that require different retention periods of one, three, and seven years. Therefore, it’s most efficient to cover all three simultaneously by establishing a seven year retention period.
|Related: Email Retention Policy Best Practices for 2022|
5. Revise Your Retention Policies Annually
Laws and regulations which affect the retention of records change very often. If your business’s email retention policies are not updated to reflect the latest changes, something might slip through the cracks and cost you a fortune later.
Reviewing and revising your policies annually with your legal and A-team is the most efficient way to guarantee that guidelines, as well as your business, stay legally compliant.
6. Archive Other Forms of Business Communication
Most companies already know why it’s essential to keep up with email archiving best practices.
However, social media and SMS messages have also gained momentum as business communication channels.
Businesses now need to consider archiving other correspondence types, including them in their policies, and searching for comprehensive email, SMS, and social media archiving solutions.
Jatheon can help you take care of all this because it comes with email, text message, social media, and WhatsApp archiving functionality.
|Related: Social Media Archiving in Regulated Industries: Why It Matters in 2022|
7. Automate Your Retention Policies
If keeping up with the email archiving best practices is genuinely your goal, you need to opt for an archiving solution with the retention policy feature.
Your departments may have very different email retention requirements – different retention windows may be necessary for emails sent by your customer support, billing, or HR department. That’s why the solution should allow multiple and customizable retention policies.
To enable efficient full compliance, you need an archiving solution to automatically delete emails from the records after a specific period expires. Such an archiving solution will never remove any email under litigation hold, but will limit your liability by automatically removing all correspondence that you’re no longer obligated to keep.
|Related: Why Legal Hold Is a Must-Have Feature in Email Archiving|
8. Make Simple Retention Schedules for Your Employees
If you want to make it easier for your employees to follow email retention guidelines, you can make the entire process more straightforward by creating simple retention policy schedules.
The last thing they need is having to go through hundreds of pages of policy documentation.
Completing such a task can consume their valuable time that they could have spent on more important tasks instead.
To ensure you’re keeping up with email archiving best practices, try to put the crucial information about the schedules on a single page. Also, ensure that the document is easily scannable.
9. Inform Your Workforce About Any Policy Changes
However, reviewing and updating your email retention policy alone isn’t enough if the employees who should follow it don’t know about the changes in the procedure.
After you’ve updated your policies, inform all your employees of any changes that might affect their practice.
To ensure they are working under the best email archiving practices, explain the reasons behind the changes and where they can find updated policy schedules and all relevant documentation.
10. Automate Legal Hold
When you’ve created solid retention strategies, you’re ready to move on to the next step and automate the process of email archiving.
Most current archiving solutions can conduct real-time capturing – they can fetch all email traffic real-time, index and archive emails in a safe, tamper-proof storage.
Some solutions even offer comprehensive automation, including the legal hold process automation. Using such solutions, businesses can easily find the necessary email records in case of litigation or an ediscovery request and freeze the records in question by applying legal hold.
When placed under legal hold (a “policy” which supersedes all the regular retention policies), no records can be removed. This prevents any accidental or deliberate data tampering or obstruction.
11. Support Your Employees to Do away with PST Files
Most laws and regulations specify that all archived emails need to be tamper-resistant.
However, if your employees are used to archiving PST files and storing them onto hard disks, this can quickly become a serious problem. Since PST files are far from tamper-proof, your company could find it hard to prove that they weren’t edited if you face a dispute.
But this is just one of the reasons why you should prevent your employees from storing emails as PST files. Other reasons are that these files are device-specific and restricted to Outlook, prone to corruption, and often bypass retention policies.
12. Choose Scaling Storage to Fit Your Growing Business Needs
No matter if you’re replacing your current email archiving system or choosing your first one, one of the critical email archiving best practices is selecting a solution that offers storage that can grow with your business.
This way, you can always scale the storage size according to your needs.
As your business advances, the amount of storage you need for email archiving purposes will only grow and might start to strain your servers additionally. This means that you could potentially need one or a few terabytes of storage, depending on your business’s size and the number of users whose email records you’re planning on archiving.
13. Evaluate Your Needs Before Opting For a Solution
Most email archiving solutions on the market offer the same fundamental set of features. Still, some products are more potent than others or are designed to address specific needs of a particular industry.
Before investing your money, you should evaluate your business challenges and need to know which kind of product would address them.
Some of the questions you should consider are:
- Are you in a highly regulated industry?
- Do you anticipate frequent audits and litigation?
- Do you currently have a lot of PST files?
Once you’ve evaluated your business needs, you’ll be ready to make a well-informed decision and choose the solution that will fit them.
If you’re leaning towards an on-premise system, check out this comprehensive guide on how to choose the right solution (23 vital features organized into categories!).
By following the critical email archiving best practices offered above and opting for a trustworthy and robust solution, you will ensure your procedures are up to date and streamline compliance with all the relevant regulations in your state and industry.
Jatheon is a Gartner MQ data archiving company with AWS-based, virtual and on-premise archiving systems that are best-rated (4.9 out of 5) on all major review platforms.
If your organization is looking to implement an email archiving solution, we can help – contact us for more information or book a free demo of our system.
What does email archiving do?
Email archiving helps organizations to retain old and current email safely, while making it accessible for easy access and retrieval. Email archiving systems address various aspects of email management, including storage, retrieval, compliance, and data protection. This practice helps them to efficiently manage email data, meet regulatory requirements, improve productivity, and ensure the long-term retention and accessibility of critical communication.
How long do emails stay in the archive?
This depends on the company’s email retention policy, which is defined based on the company’s industry, organizational policies, and compliance laws that control email retention. Most email archiving solutions come with the ability to retain email permanently or let administrators and compliance officers set retention rules to control email retention. After a retention policy expires, emails are deleted automatically.
What is the best way to archive old emails?
It’s best to use email archiving software to automate the process of capturing, searching, and storing email. There are other, less advanced options, like utilizing cloud storage services, local storage, email filters and rules, or PDF conversion. The choice of the best archiving method depends on your exact needs, the existing IT infrastructure, company size and legal requirements.
What does it mean to archive an email?
When an email is archived, it is moved from your active mailbox or folder and stored in another location for long-term retention and future reference. For organizations, this means that all the employee emails get moved to a centralized location (an email archive system), where administrators and compliance officers can view and manage them. Employees will typically have access to their own archive and will be able to restore archived emails to their original mailbox.
Do archived emails get deleted?
No, the emails you archive aren’t deleted. They are simply moved from your active mailbox to another location. The archiving system will automatically delete them after a retention policy expires. If you are an end-user, you typically won’t be able to control this because archived emails need to stay in the system as long as they are under an active email retention policy, which is controled by your company.
What is the purpose of email archiving?
The purpose of email archiving is to store and preserve emails and related data for long-term retention and easy retrieval. It’s primarily implemented to meet regulatory, legal, and compliance requirements, as well as to address organizational needs for data management, storage optimization, and information governance.
Does archiving emails clear space?
Yes, archiving can help clear space in email servers and client applications. When you archive emails, you typically move them from the active mailbox or folder to a separate storage location, such as an archive server or an email archiving tool. This process reduces the size of the active mailbox, freeing up storage space and improving the performance of the email system. Archiving systems often use data compression and deduplication techniques to further optimize storage usage.
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