A Lemon That Makes Tasty Lemonade

E-mail archiving for compliance may seem like a burden, but it helps organizations cut the costs of message management and search.

Fundamentals - What to Look for in E-mail Archiving Software

The Basics

An e-mail archive is not just a bunch of backup tapes. E-mail archive software automatically extracts information from e-mail servers based on corporate policies or rules and indexes so it's easy to find later on. It captures incoming, outgoing and internal e-mails and indexes all of this e-mail plus all attachments. It stores the e-mails for the appropriate period of time according to preset rules. It provides centralized search and is tamper-proof. The archive provides an audit trail that shows who accessed any e-mail and when. The information is stored in nonrewriteable form, typically in a WORM format.

Ease Of Use

Users should not have to tag or classify e-mails. Ideally, this step should happen automatically. The user interface should be intuitive, and users should be able to recover their own e-mails without calling the help desk.

IM Support

Today, you might not permit employees to use instant messaging (IM) or you might not feel the need to archive IMs. Yet various laws, regulations and certainly legal exposure issues would suggest archiving if anyone in your company now or in the future uses IM to communicate with customers.


Scalability is crucial because e-mail volumes grow so quickly. "The potential for scalability problems is enormous," says analyst Michael Osterman of Osterman Research. "If you have 25,000 employees, each employee generates 70 e-mails a day and you have to keep that data for seven years, you will end up with more e-mails in your archive than Google has Web pages in its index." Ask vendors how many messages their archive software can process an hour and how many messages can be searched and data volumes extracted in an hour. Ask vendor reference customers about the volumes their systems handle and how well vendors have managed expansion.

The Cost

Expect to pay around $25 per e-mail inbox.

Editor's Choice
Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Terry White, Associate Chief Analyst, Omdia
John Abel, Technical Director, Google Cloud
Richard Pallardy, Freelance Writer
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Pam Baker, Contributing Writer