How to Choose the Best Email Archiving Solution: 23 Features to Consider (Updated)

May 06, 2020 by Jatheon

Introduction: Why Archive in the First Place?

In modern business, email is a critical function for most enterprises. A recent report by DMR shows that an average office worker receives around 120 email messages daily. Administrators and compliance officers need to be able to recover email messages and chats in case of data loss or user error. A lot of office time gets wasted on email, so proper email management is key to increased business productivity. A safe, accessible and tamper-proof email archive is essential in order to comply with various federal and state laws and regulations or industry standards. Finally, email and social media exchanges need to be stored in a tamper-proof format and made easily retrievable in case your organization needs to respond to eDiscovery requests.

The cost of not implementing an email archiving solution can far exceed the expense of installing one, as the inability to comply with discovery requests and non-compliance with security or privacy standards may result in legal expenses or government fines, in some cases amounting to millions of dollars. For instance, some Fortune 1000 companies are known to spend as much as $30 million on eDiscovery costs a year.

The Differences that Make All the Difference

If you take email archiving as a must-have, the next step is to get the maximum functionality from your archiving solution for the minimum cost. There are numerous archiving companies that provide on-premise, cloud or hybrid solutions, but remember that your solution is as powerful as the features it possesses. You can choose an archiving appliance or a software-only solution, but bear in mind that on-premise archiving solutions offer a number of advantages.

“There are numerous archiving companies that provide on-premise, cloud or hybrid solutions, but remember that your solution is as powerful as the features it possesses.”

To start with, there’s a significant advantage in price-performance ratio with a much lower total cost of ownership over time. The streamlined interface of an appliance offers a much simpler experience for the administrator while still retaining a full feature set and lots of functionality, including a much faster search capability.

In order to avoid hidden costs when purchasing an email archiving appliance, look for vendors that offer packages and take some time to examine all the hardware and software features that guarantee an efficient and smooth email archiving process. Last but not the least, take time to explore what kind of support and guarantee the archiving services provider can offer in years to come.

“To avoid hidden costs when purchasing an email archiving appliance, look for vendors that offer packages and take some time to examine all the hardware and software features that guarantee an efficient and smooth email archiving process.”

10 Must-Have Hardware Features

The rectangular metal box that houses your email archiver might look a bit unimpressive at first glance. But don’t be fooled, the real deal is under the chassis. In order to provide the ultimate, worry-free archiving experience, your archiver must be a supercomputer, a robust and powerful machine that needs to possess certain qualities to truly meet the needs of your business. It has to be fast and reliable and can’t be prone to data corruption, hardware failure or power outages. It needs to be as powerful and reliable as a server, which runs non-stop and handles massive amounts of data. This is why you should look for an appliance with server/enterprise-grade hardware.

“Your archiver must be a supercomputer, a robust and powerful machine that needs to possess certain qualities to truly meet the needs of your business.”

Server grade hardware is designed for the rigors of the server environment. Unlike consumer hardware, which is designed for lighter and shorter use in consumer electronics such as desktop computers or smartphones, server or enterprise-grade hardware is built to endure uninterrupted use and the heavy workload of enterprises. If your archiver has consumer-grade hardware, any glitch in your appliance could cause data loss, which goes against the entire purpose of archiving.

Here’s a short overview of the specific hardware features your archiving appliance should possess:

1. Server-Grade Chipsets

The chipset is a set of electronic components located on the motherboard. It manages the data flow between the processor, the memory and the peripherals. Chipsets play a vital role in determining system performance as they control communication between the processor and external devices. Server grade chipsets are faster and they support faster processors with more cache memory. The speed and the performance of your entire system largely depend on your cache memory. Server chipsets are made of high-quality components and designed to run constantly.

2. ECC RAM

Choosing an archiving appliance with consumer grade memory and storage would present a huge risk for the safety of your data. This is because it would be susceptible to silent data corruption, which can occur due to radiation, aging and wear of the storage device. When silent data corruption occurs, there are no warning signs. ECC memory is immune to such errors ‒ the data that is read from each word is always the same as the data that had been written to it, even if one or more stored bits have been flipped to the wrong state. Therefore, using ECC RAM is absolutely essential for data-sensitive tasks like archiving or data retrieval. Without it, you can never know for sure if your data got silently corrupted along the way.

3. SAS hard drives

As opposed to SATA drives, typically used for desktops and general consumer use, SAS drives are used in enterprise computing where high speed and availability are crucial. While the speed at which data platters rotate is 7.2K in the most popular SATA drive format, in the two main types of SAS it is 10K and 15K. Regarding reliability, the industry accepted MTBF for SAS drives is 1.2 million hours, while it’s only 700,000 hours for SATA. A SAS hard drive in your archiving appliance will ensure your archiving solution is fast and reliable.

4. RAID Array

RAID is the combination of multiple physical disk drive components into a single unit for the purpose of data redundancy and performance improvement. In RAID arrays, data is distributed across the drives so that, in case of failure of one or more storage units, you can still retrieve your data from the remaining drives. Servers typically have RAID arrays to prevent data loss in case of an unforeseen hardware failure. A RAID array is mandatory in email archiving as it successfully prevents loss of your archived data due to hardware issues.

5. Redundant Power Supply Unit

A redundant power supply unit is an example of hardware redundancy. In email archiving, redundancy refers to the practice of duplicating critical components (in this case, your power supply) in order to provide backup in case of component failure and increase reliability and dependability.

A redundant power supply contains two or more power supply units, each of which is capable of powering the entire archiving appliance. However, only one will run at a time. In case one power supply unit fails, the other one will take over and keep your appliance going. This switch between the power supplies is seamless and doesn’t disrupt the normal use of the device. Having a redundant PSU is vital in email archiving as it improves stability, ensures continuity of the archiving process and minimizes the chance of appliance shutdown or failure.

A power supply unit failure is likely to occur at least once in 4 years. This type of failure is serious because it causes the entire archiving appliance to be knocked offline. The causes of failure can vary from fans, capacitors and voltage spikes to environmental issues. A PSU can fail in the middle of the night or over the weekend, when it can’t be replaced for hours or even days. With a redundant power supply unit, you can rest assured that your archiving solution will be working without interruptions and that no emails will be missing when you need them.

6. Chassis with enclosure intrusion detection

When we talk about data security, one can never be too careful. Enclosure intrusion detection is a functionality which exists on server level and notifies responsible persons in case any inappropriate handling of the appliance is detected. What if somebody sneaks into your server room during the night and removes the hard drive from the appliance in an attempted cover-up? Look at intrusion detection as an extra layer of protection which is useful in case your appliance is not under full control or if it’s on an untrusted network.

7. ZFS

ZFS is a file system and volume manager that’s used to direct and control the storage and retrieval of data in enterprise-class computer systems. ZFS controls the entire storage system and ensures that data that is stored on disks can’t be lost due to physical error, bit rot and data corruption. ZFS is related to other features which are indispensable in email archiving, where the safety and integrity of data is of paramount importance. These include self-healing data sets, bit-rot proof for long-term data protection, a superfast additional replication developed on top of the ZFS snapshot feature, zettabyte scalability (support for high storage capacities) and data integrity features such as end-to-end data full checksum protection.

8. Expandability and Scalability

If your email archive is scalable, it means it is able to sustain a growing amount of data and that it has the potential to be expanded in order to accommodate that growth. What if your business suddenly grows and you have to archive additional 20 mailboxes? The initial plan you purchased will no longer suffice and you’ll be forced to provide more storage space. Expandable, scalable solutions allow you to respond proactively and provide more space to archive the constantly growing volume of email and other digital communication.

9. Adaptability

Email archiving is no longer only about email. As a matter of fact, the terminology itself is changing as email archiving has evolved to include other forms of online communication. The commonly used umbrella term is digital communication archiving or information archiving. Legislation has changed as well and it now requires the retention of all electronically stored information including social media content, instant messages, web searches and more. This means that your email archiving solution must be able to adapt and archive this other online content if you want your organization to stay fully compliant. Look for vendors which can integrate social media archiving into their existing offer.

10. SSD

You want your archiving appliance to run fast, store a lot of data, be high quality and still be affordable. An appliance that uses spinning disk drives to store your archive and an SSD to store its cache will achieve just that. The cache is used to store data that is frequently accessed so that future requests for that data can be served faster. An SSD cache will have a very high data reading speed and make your appliance even more responsive. So, while an SSD cache will ensure speed, the HDDs will make sure the excessive price tag is avoided.

10 Software Features You Can’t Do Without

Good hardware is important, but it’s not the only thing that matters. Although you need your device to be reliable and fast, it is the software that your compliance officers and employees will be using on a daily basis. A good email archiving software has to be fast and allow you to manage your data without giving you an extra headache. It has to be simple to use and user-friendly and it needs to have an intuitive interface that allows effortless archiving. With a well-designed email archiving software, your users won’t need to reach for the instruction manual. Apart from simplicity and user-centered design, your archiving software needs to possess sophisticated features that will allow you to locate and retrieve files easily. What follows is a quick overview of the top ten features your dream archiving software should possess.

“Apart from simplicity and user-centered design, your archiving software needs to possess sophisticated features that will allow you to locate and retrieve files easily.”

1. Powerful Search Options

Of all the features you’ll get with your email archiving software, search rules them all. You’ll use it most often, so you need it to be incredibly powerful. Looking for a single email message in endless piles of unorganized emails in your mailbox can often feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. In the worst case scenario, your organization will receive an eDiscovery request and a very limited time to produce some potentially incriminating emails. Without email archiving, it can cost you as much as $18,000 to review a single gigabyte of data. A powerful search feature will allow you to locate a specific email in a matter of seconds and save you thousands of dollars.

Quick search is built for staff members with basic permissions, and it allows them to perform simple searches through their own mailbox on a daily basis. Multi-mailbox search is designed for admins and compliance officers and allows them to search through everyone’s mailboxes. A good search functionality will contain a variety of search criteria and be able to search through .pdf and word attachments. If you end up with a large number of results, there should be an option called “subsearch” or “search within a search” which would help you to narrow down your results.

Advanced search is designed to facilitate the execution of more complex, demanding and extensive searches. It allows users, compliance officers and admins to browse and manage millions of email messages. It lets you structure your search better and leaves you with a manageable number of results even if you’re searching through terabytes of email data. In summary, this is the feature you need if you want to be 100% prepared for Discover.

2. Various Message Options

Other search-related options that your archiving software should have include message options which allow users to manage and manipulate retrieved emails (can’t delete, forward, download, export, download, print, verify integrity, flag or comment). Users should be able to save frequently performed searches and share them with specific users as well as view the list of recent searches.

3. User Roles, Permissions and Audit Trail

Another handy feature is the ability to assign roles to users (for example, admin, compliance officer and end user) to control permissions and access to the archive. These roles should be customizable for your convenience. Audit Trail allows responsible staff members to monitor and record users’ activities, which is crucial in preventing the attempts at deleting or altering some potentially incriminating archived information.

4. Litigation Hold

A legal hold or litigation hold is a process that organizations use to preserve relevant electronically stored information when they anticipate litigation, investigation or an audit. This means that certain electronic records must be preserved after their original retention period. The legal hold feature allows admins and compliance officers to apply legal hold on certain users’ mailboxes and thus preserve their communication indefinitely.

5. Deduplication, Single Instance Storage and Compression

Features such as deduplication, single-instance storage and compression ensure that your files take up as little storage space as possible. The deduplication feature makes sure that only one copy of a duplicate message gets saved on your archiving appliance. Our favorite example includes holiday greeting cards. If a CEO sends a “Happy Holidays” message with a 1MB attachment to their 3000 employees, without deduplication, the attachment would take 3GB of storage. Single-instance storage is similar ‒ it ensures that the same attachment contained in two different emails sent by two users will be saved as a single copy. Finally, compression is there to additionally save storage space by reducing the size of each and every archived message and file.

6. Configurable Expunge Period

There’s no need to preserve messages after the retention period expires. The expunge function allows you to define life-span of data and then automatically delete it when you no longer need it for compliance purposes. Fresh storage space is an additional benefit.

7. Schema-free Indexing

When an email reaches the archiving appliance, it is read against a list of defined criteria. The appliance then creates a searchable list of terms (called an index) that can be used as search criteria later. A good archiving solution will be able to search based on criteria such as attachments, conversation, message size and attachment size.

Many solutions do a pretty good job of indexing the email header criteria and message bodies, but very few can actually index attachments. Look for a high-quality email archiving tool that indexes attachments too. Attachment indexing means that if the oncoming email contains an attachment that is a .pdf, .doc, .docx or a .txt file, that attachment will be indexed and made fully searchable.

8. Policies

An email retention policy is a company policy that defines how long email messages should remain in your email archive before they are automatically deleted. These policies largely depend on specific government regulations and vary across industries. Compliance officers are in charge of exploring the relevant laws and creating email archiving policies that reflect them. The prime benefit of email archiving is that emails will be deleted automatically once the retention period expires (typically after 7 years). An email archiving solution with good policy management will not only allow you to set and automate a particular policy, but also eliminate the possibility of human error and prevent tampering with archived data.

9. Easy Import and Export of Data and Compatibility with Mail Servers

Another vital thing for a top-notch archiving software is to be platform-agnostic, which means it needs to smoothly integrate with all major email platforms such as Exchange, Office 365, Gmail and others.

It needs to be able to import or ingest legacy data from mail platforms quickly and smoothly. Your email archiving tool needs to be developed in a way that ensures easy migration of high volumes of data from the legacy system into your new system. Legacy data typically consists of PST or EML files which have to be ingested into your archive in order for users to be able to access, search and retrieve them later.

Once you locate some important data in the depths of your email archive, you’ll probably need to export them. Look for archiving software that supports exporting to PDF, EML and PST formats.

10. Data Analytics: Reports and Statistics

It’s often easier to grasp and manage data if it’s not shown in the form of an endless scrollable list. Options such as histogram provide a visual representation of your email statistics and offer valuable insights which you might not be able to get otherwise.

What Comes Next: Support and Guarantee

While it’s true that your primary concern should be for your archiving solution to contain stellar hardware and software, the story of email archiving does not end with your purchase. Be wary of archiving companies that are unclear about what kind of technical support and warranty you’ll get once you pay for the appliance. You need a vendor who you can trust and who will provide all the necessary support when things go wrong. Yes, things can go wrong and no matter what kind of experts you have on your IT team, you need to think about potential problems.

“Be wary of archiving companies that are unclear about what kind of technical support and warranty you’ll get once you pay for the appliance.”

1. Free Software Updates

When it comes to software, make sure you get regular (and free) updates. This way you’ll always have the latest version of the archiving software and get new features, bug fixes and better operational quality. Nobody likes constant updates, but be aware that the optimal period between them should not exceed 2 weeks.

2. Free Hardware Maintenance and Replacement

When hardware is concerned, be aware that even the best components can fail. Unfortunately, most customers only think about hardware replacement when it’s too late. A good vendor will provide hardware maintenance and repair or replace any malfunctioned component free of charge.

Another problem is that both technology and actual devices soon become outdated. It’s generally recommended to plan end of life for hardware after 4 years. Look for an archiving company that will not only provide maintenance, but also free hardware replacement. This means that if you’ve regularly paid the yearly maintenance fee, you’ll get a brand new (and improved) archiving appliance after 4 years.

3. Technical Support and 24/7 Monitoring

To make sure the archiving process runs smoothly, archiving companies should also provide 24/7 monitoring, full technical support and a dedicated customer service. A good vendor will also assist you with legacy data ingestion and backup.

Conclusion

To sum up ‒ when you archive emails, you need to be able to retrieve them quickly and you want your archiving solution to be very fast, reliable and powerful. Search and retrieval speed really matter in email archiving, so it’s always a good idea to pay close attention to the feature set that a particular archiving company offers.

“Search and retrieval speed really matter in email archiving, so it’s always a good idea to pay close attention to the feature set that a particular archiving company offers.”

An email archiving solution is not something you will purchase on a whim, so it makes sense to take time and carefully explore your options. However, remember that the best way to choose an archiving appliance is to take it for a test drive or have an archiving expert demonstrate how all these features work in practice.

To find out how Jatheon can help you implement an email archiving solution, book a personal demo or contact us.

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