by Jatheon

Why On-Premise Email Archiving Solutions Are Still a Good Investment [White Paper]


Introduction: The Evolution of Email Archiving

After Arthur Andersen destroyed 30,000 Enron emails, it was clear that we needed better email management and processes. That’s how the entire email archiving industry was born.

Email archiving is an automated process in which all incoming, internal and outgoing email traffic is captured, retained and protected so that the messages could be accessed at a later date. All emails are indexed along with attachments and retained in a read-only format. This allows users to perform searches using a number of different criteria and ensures that the archived data is uneditable and tamper-proof. A comprehensive approach to data storage and protection, email archiving lets businesses have a single repository which allows quick and secure access and management of business-critical data.

Before email archiving, email maintenance and management was the task of individual end users or IT departments. With the increase of data shared in internal and external communication, this approach quickly became unsustainable. Tracing and managing data suddenly got a lot more complicated. Simultaneously, the risk of losing important information turned into a challenge for companies, especially those with a large number of employees. Plus, with compliance legislation and legal discovery rules constantly evolving, email data handling demanded a solution that would make the whole process more systematic and secure.

Email archiving thus appears especially convenient as it addresses various problems such as mail server malfunction, data management quality, cost optimization, regulatory compliance, litigation response and security threats – all of which can be of crucial importance for any business. It’s worth noting that archiving is not mandatory for every vertical. Companies in regulated industries, however, are legally required to maintain archives of their electronic communications, primarily email.

The Top Benefits of Archiving Enterprise Email

Regulatory Compliance and Legal Preparedness
The strict regulatory environment for verticals such as education, financial, healthcare or government is one of the major drivers behind the demand for email archiving solutions. Organizations are required to retain email records for 3-7 years, depending on the industry. In case of a pending lawsuit, businesses are often required to quickly retrieve relevant communication, including email. An email archiving solution allows them to store email exchanges in a format that prevents evidence spoliation, apply litigation hold and ensure speedy data retrieval for a smooth legal discovery process.

Storage Concerns and Business Productivity
One in every four organizations experiences a storage management growth of 25% per year, largely attributed to email use and ever-growing attachments. When organizations impose email storage quotas, they do so to prevent infinite storage growth and prevent poor server performance. Email archiving brings relief to your servers and allows you to do away with quotas. Without a dedicated solution, locating a single elusive email can turn into an office nightmare for your employees, who then reach out to your IT Team for retrieval support. A fully searchable archive with easy export options will save a lot of time and trouble to everyone involved.

Monitoring and Data Governance
Although a vast majority of messages employees exchange daily are business-related, sometimes there’s more. With an archive, organizations can define email policies, set rules and notifications and be alerted if inappropriate content gets communicated. Having a dedicated archiving and governance solution helps to detect workplace disputes and prevent more serious breaches such as sexual harassment and evidence spoliation. Even if your organization belongs to an unregulated industry, your email archive will be a vast repository of corporate knowledge. Being able to leverage your archived data can often give companies vital insight they would not be able to get otherwise.

Different Types of Deployment

The initial dilemma of “to archive or not to archive” seems to have evolved into “what and how to archive”.

Email archiving technology solutions can be deployed in several different ways.

In on-premise deployment, archiving appliances are physically located in an organization’s office. This deployment type is typical of large enterprises that have an IT infrastructure necessary to maintain and manage the solution. The advantages include the total control of the archiving process, increased security and easy monitoring of access. On-premise solutions are paid per storage space.

With cloud-based archiving solutions, email and other company data are kept in the cloud. The archiving services provider is in charge of data security and availability. An obvious advantage is that there are no physical servers to be maintained. Cloud solutions are priced based on the number of mailboxes to be archived.

An organization can implement a hybrid solution, where business-critical and sensitive data can be stored on site, while less important information can be hosted in the cloud.

Virtual Appliance
With this deployment type, an organization gets a pre-configured OS and application(s) that they can deploy on their virtual environment.

Several email servers like Gmail, Exchange or Office 365 have built-in archiving capabilities. Their strengths lie in ease of deployment and seamless integration. Still, there are some considerable drawbacks of such an approach to enterprise archiving – very basic and often inefficient search functionality, trouble with export and the lack of customization and complexity commonly found in third-party solutions.

Cloud-Based vs. On-Premise Archiving Solutions: An Overview

To experienced archiving companies and IT community, the rise of the cloud was never meant to mean the death of on-premise.

After 2010, it started to look like the archiving community was turning to cloud-based solutions. The trend has been overwhelming, and sturdy, reliable on-premise solutions were suddenly characterized as “obsolete”, “last-century”, “vintage” and “cumbersome”. Cloud solutions were advertised as innovative, flexible, simple and scalable and their advantages were reflected in ease of access, support for various devices including mobile, fast upgrades and bottomless storage. But not everyone was eager to swap their appliance for the hosted solution. The considerations were plentiful.

Five Advantages of Cloud-Based Archiving Solutions

Fit for Small Businesses
While the majority of on-premise archiving solutions are a convenient choice for enterprises with 500+ employees, SMEs and start-ups typically lack the complex IT infrastructure necessary to support the on-premise setup. Moreover, if an organization does not belong to a regulated industry such as healthcare, education or the financial services, there aren’t as many regulatory concerns on their plate. This, however, doesn’t mean that such companies shouldn’t archive email and social media, and hosted solutions are the most viable option.

Buying an on-premise archiving appliance means buying fixed storage space. Although select archiving companies offer excellent and affordable expandability plans, the flexibility offered by cloud solutions is difficult to match. Cloud solutions allow companies to scale their capacity up and down based on their changing needs. This high level of operational agility is a major point in favor of cloud solutions.

The way we do business is experiencing some major changes as well. An increasing number of companies embrace telecommuting, promote agility and wish to remain mobile in their business. With a cloud-based solution, end users, IT personnel and compliance officers can access the archive from various devices and operating systems.

Lower Initial Costs
Contrary to on-premise solutions that are sold per storage capacity, cloud solutions are priced per mailbox, which is why they typically have a lower initial cost and can bring substantial cost benefits.

Staff and Overhead
Organizations employing on-premise systems need to possess at least some IT infrastructure and staff, which requires additional financial resources. An on-premise setup requires periodical hardware refreshes, hardware renewal and software maintenance contracts. With cloud archiving, your organization won’t have to appoint IT personnel who would be in charge of setting up, managing and overseeing the solution. The cloud is managed by third-party professionals and requires no management effort on your end. Finally, not having an actual appliance will allow your organization to reduce overhead.

When Cloud Solutions Don’t Work: A Case for On-Premise

Do you really trust anyone with your data? 57% of IT managers maintain that on-premise security remains superior to cloud.

Although any archiving is better than no archiving, sometimes the choice of the solution can make the difference between being compliant and suffering penalties for non-compliance. Many IT professionals are still very much wary of archiving business-critical data in the cloud. We explored when and why on-premise archiving solutions have the edge over the cloud, and these are our main conclusions.

Regulatory Compliance and eDiscovery
Depending on the industry or geographical location, companies need to adhere to various government regulations which mandate how business-critical and sensitive data should be used and stored. Common examples are strictly regulated industries such as financial services, healthcare or education. For such companies, it is essential that the IT department can prove to regulators and auditors that all necessary measures have been taken to ensure the security of sensitive data. This often means that storing data on-premise, in company-owned data centers is the only way to ensure security.

On the other hand, many cloud solutions, especially native ones like Exchange 2013, do not satisfy the strict standards of regulatory compliance. Many important features (such as the audit log and data integrity verification) are missing in such solutions. These functionalities are vital for eDiscovery – audit log records and memorizes all actions undertaken by users. Compliance officers, human resources managers and legal teams can then have full confidence that the archived data hasn’t been altered in any way.

Security, Control and Trust
Even though cloud security has improved considerably over the last few years, certain organizations such as healthcare services providers deal with protected sensitive data that requires more advanced security than that offered by cloud archiving companies. In many enterprises that put security above everything else, IT managers feel more comfortable being in charge of the archiving process themselves. These are the main reasons why many organizations still choose to store data in-house.

The major reason why tech leaders advocate on-premise appliances is that they are in total control of the archiving process and, more importantly, the data that resides in the archive. Many IT managers, compliance officers and CIOs are aware that providers of hosted solutions, no matter how powerful their names sound, can’t take care of other companies’ data the way companies can do it themselves.

With on-premise solutions, you have complete control, authority and responsibility to define what is archived, where to store it and how to enable or restrict access to archived data. On the other hand, keep in mind that a high degree of control also requires a high degree of experience and operational maturity. Even the best-designed systems require some administrative time and knowledge of on-premise system management.

When it comes to security and trust, tech leaders know that nobody will put in as much effort to protect your sensitive data as you would yourself. For all organizations that value security, housing critical information in a public cloud rarely meets the degree of security they deem appropriate.

Search Capabilities and Feature Set
The market for on-premise archiving solutions is mature because archiving solutions have been around for nearly as long as email server products have. As email infiltrated the highly-regulated industries, customers demanded robust, enterprise-grade solutions. This means that major archiving vendors have had years to build them and design and perfect their feature set.

If there is one software functionality that needs to be stellar in email archiving, that’s search. If you configure things correctly and if the software allows it, you will probably have better search performance with an on-premise solution when compared with cloud – especially on larger databases. Another common advantage of on-premise archiving is that such systems tend to have much greater functionality than hosted systems. They can ingest and manage more types of data and provide tighter integration with back-end systems. Many archiving vendors provide customization capabilities as well. In other words, if you need to archive content other than email (social media, mobile calls and texts, SharePoint etc.) you probably need an on-premise solution.

The physical location of data is an issue that continues to haunt the early adopters of public cloud technology. When sensitive, business-critical data is moved to the cloud, it’s very difficult to be certain where your data actually resides. Luckily, some modern solutions built on top of Amazon Data Services can offer proper data fencing and scale, which is extremely important in order to provide security and speed necessary in email archiving. Moreover, with latest cloud-based solutions, it is now possible to respond to requirements that certain organizations face in terms of geographic area in which enterprise data is stored. This, however, still doesn’t beat the feeling of security and peace of mind offered by systems that reside in-house.

Inherent Cloud Shortcomings
While it’s true that cloud technology has improved considerably, there are still some problems with most of the cloud solutions available today. Firstly, it’s very hard to extract all existing email, move it onto the cloud solution and process it for search. Secondly, the search itself is often slow and cumbersome, as legacy user interfaces and dated technology make it an arduous and time-consuming process. The user typically needs to know quite a bit of boolean expressions and different technical terms to actually use the user interface, especially when searching through multiple mailboxes or working with large amounts of data.

Thirdly, having a simple, fast and reliable way to export data is crucial, but very few solutions excel here. It is for this reason that many tech leaders still advocate on-premise email archiving solutions, whose email export is typically more reliable. Finally, there are support and troubleshooting considerations. Because there is often no end-to-end visibility into a cloud, in-house staff must work with the service provider to identify and resolve issues.

Latency within private data centers and across private WAN connections is easily controllable. On the other hand, when you leverage the internet to access cloud resources, latency can become a major problem. If access to your data requires low and predictable latency times, it’s usually much easier to manage and distribute this type of data when you control the network end-to-end.

The Total Cost of Ownership
High-quality archiving appliances contain enterprise-grade hardware and special data protection features that can make them costly. With hardware solutions, companies need to purchase the whole on-premise archiving system up front, which, unlike cloud solutions, makes archiving a capital expense. On-premise systems also require hardware maintenance and hardware replacement every four or five years in order to ensure optimal performance. It’s noteworthy that there are archiving companies that offer excellent support and maintenance plans which include free hardware refresh programs.

Conversely, cloud solutions are sold per mailbox and are associated with smaller initial cost and monthly or yearly fees, which makes them a part of operational expenditure. However, very few cloud-based solutions can mirror the feature set typically available in archiving appliances. Their per-mailbox cost structure can be very misleading and always entails hidden costs that can be very difficult to predict.

By combining all the factors mentioned here, along with the more obvious costs such as monthly subscription charges for the cloud or one-off hardware costs for an on-premise installation, organizations can project and decide which method will cost their business the most over the coming years.


While cloud email archiving rises in prominence as its security improves, a vast number of tech leaders remain faithful to on-premise solutions. The most important takeaway is that the choice between a cloud or an on-premise solution shouldn’t be made based on cost alone. To decide between a hosted and appliance solution for email archiving, organizations need to understand their specific business requirements and how each type of solution might meet those requirements.

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Jatheon is a “Trail Blazer” in The Radicati Group’s 2024 Information Archiving MQ

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