This article is the first in a series about email archiving. In the coming articles, I will write about the benefits of email archiving and give some guidelines on how to find the best email archiving product for your organization.
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A recent study conducted by GFI in the UK established that only 49% of SMBs implemented email archiving. I must admit that I have also been putting off this topic for quite some time already. Systems that seem not to contribute directly to productivity are often neglected in IT. Security, backup and all kinds of archiving tasks belong to this seemingly non-productive group. I hope that after reading this series, you will realize that there are many reasons why introducing email archiving will increase productivity in IT and in your organization in general. In fact, it will also reduce costs.
I found quite a few documents on the web covering the benefits of email archiving. Most of them are a bit long-winded. I will present all of the benefits I found in a condensed form, making it easier for you to convince your CIO or CEO that introducing an email archiving solution is inevitable in the long run. The article today covers the organizational benefits of email archiving; in the next post in this series, I will write about technical matters.
Increased importance of emails
There is no doubt that email has been gaining importance over the last several years. I don't just mean that it has become the most important form of communication for many businesses. As a matter of fact, important documents such as offers, invoices and even contracts that were sent by snail mail or fax a couple of years ago are often transmitted my email nowadays. As the use of digital signatures has become more common, this development will probably accelerate in the near future. It is obvious that archiving obligations for printed documents apply in the same way to emails.
This is also the reason why legal considerations come into play here. The laws in different countries might vary when it comes to the obligations regarding long term archiving of documents of legal relevance. But many underestimate the time their local laws demand for the archiving of tax-related documents. Often companies are obliged to store them for up to ten years. Common backup strategies usually don't encompass such long periods. Another crucial factor with regard to compliance is the requirement to ensure tamperproof archiving. Conventional backup solutions don't offer this functionality.
Perhaps considerations concerning litigations are just as important as compliance. In the case of a lawsuit, it might turn out to be a decisive advantage to be able to find old emails as quickly as possible. Then, you might require sophisticated search capabilities such as full text search. Of course, all email systems offer search functions. But what do you do if it is not known in which postbox the email is stored? Perhaps the employee who received this email left the company years ago?
Of course, finding relevant emails in a short time period is not only important with respect to legal issues. Maybe someone needs to find an old email from an important customer that has already been deleted. Hunting for such deleted emails can be very time consuming for IT, especially if the user has no idea when he received or deleted it. Furthermore, enterprise email archiving solutions often offer connectors to document management systems (DMS), customer relationship management systems (CRM) or enterprise resource planning solutions (ERP).
Of course, it would be the best if end-users were able to search and restore emails by themselves without involving an administrator. As an admin you are certainly familiar with these helpdesk calls: a user will insist that he is missing a very important email that has been deleted through no fault of his own. Wouldn't it be nice if end-users could just delete emails at will and restore them themselves as often as they feel like it?
No more mailbox quotas
Often you can't blame end-users for deleting emails. Many organizations have postbox quotas that force users to delete emails regularly. Storage capacities are becoming cheaper but the number of emails and the average storage size are getting bigger too. I think one of the reasons for this is that the good old fax is about to be replaced by email. People scan documents and send them by email. Graphics files require a lot of space. Most email archiving solutions are able to automatically store old emails in the archive if the postbox has reached its maximum size. Thus, end-users don't have to spend time reviewing old emails in order to delete the obsolete ones.
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As mentioned above, I will write about the technical benefits of email archiving in the next post of this series. But in the meantime, it would be interesting to know if you already have an email archiving solution in your organization and what experiences you have had. Perhaps you decided against introducing email archiving. In this case, I would be interested in your reasons for doing so.
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