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Hosted vs. in-house e-mail archiving

Archiving expert Bill Tolson outlines the pros and cons of hosted, in-house and hybrid e-mail archiving.

What are the pros and cons of hosted vs. in-house e-mail archiving?
There are actually three potential strategies to look at when looking at e-mail archiving options: in-house, hosted and hybrid.

In-house e-mail archiving: The in-house solution model is just how it sounds. All required hardware and software is purchased by the customer, installed in the customer's data center and managed by the customer. The vast majority of e-mail archiving solutions sold in the last eight years are of this type.

The most common advantages of the in-house model:

  • Confidential information is kept in-house.
  • The ability to customize is higher.
  • The most common disadvantages of the in-house model include:

  • Upfront costs are much higher including hardware, software and support costs
  • Time to implement is longer
  • In-house resources are consumed and additional employees may need to be hired.
  • The in-house model is mainly for companies who prefer and have the budget and IT resources to manage their e-mail archiving.

    Hosted e-mail archiving: In this model, a company's e-mail, sent and received, is forwarded via VPN or other secure link to a service provider which accepts the e-mail, indexes it and stores the e-mail for later retrieval by the customer.

    There are a number of reasons to select an outsourced archiving service. They are:

  • Fast and straightforward deployment with no large out-of-pocket initial expenses.
  • If customers don't like the service, they can simply decline renewing their contract (which usually runs for one to three years), rather than worry about the unwanted hardware and software sitting on their premises.
  • Outsourcing is great for companies with no IT department, or a small or overstretched IT department. The service provider handles all heavy-duty aspects of administration, while the customer is left with relatively few tasks.
  • By and large, outsourcers are always up-to-date with the latest releases and versions of hardware and software. The upgrade process is more painful and expensive in-house.
  • Scalability and dispersed geographic locations can be more easily accommodated by outsourcers than through in-house installations.
  • Despite all the pros, not all companies accept these benefits. Some of the drawbacks of outsourcing expressed by companies include the following:

  • Many organizations are reluctant to trust another company to manage their most sensitive and important business records.
  • There is a perception that an outsourced solution is slower in search and retrieval response times.
  • The hosted solution model is best for companies with a limited IT budget and IT personnel, or ones who simply like to pay as they go, rather than invest a large amount of money in the system upfront.
  • Hybrid e-mail archiving: The hybrid e-mail archiving approach combines the in-house and outsourced models. In a typical installation, an appliance is installed at the customer site which performs the capture, indexing and management of the e-mail traffic. This e-mail is then usually encrypted and sent to a service provider's site for secure storage. The hybrid model was originally created to offset the high cost of storage. Now, because hybrid vendors usually offer the hybrid solution via a monthly service charge, customers are offered the best of both the in-house and hosted models.

    The advantages of the hybrid model include:

  • Lower upfront costs than the in-house model.
  • Much quicker implementation than the in-house model.
  • Only the storage is offsite.
  • The weakness of the hybrid model is:

  • Confidential e-mails, potentially encrypted, are kept at another company's facility.
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