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How to choose a Web-based email archiving vendor

Using a Web-based email archiving service is an attractive option for storage administrators. However, to get the most out of it, you have to select the right vendor. This tip outlines what you need to consider.

What you will learn: Using a Web-based email archiving service is an attractive option for storage administrators. However, to get the most out of it, you have to select the right vendor. This tip outlines what you need to consider.

Many companies choose to do their own archiving, but others prefer to farm out the job. The company's email traffic, or a subset thereof, is uploaded to the service's servers, processed and stored for easy retrieval.

Within this model, there are many variations. Some services download email databases daily, some do it in near real time, and most of them only download single instances of attachments to save bandwidth.

Web-based email archiving is especially attractive for organizations that must comply with regulations on email retention and storage. The companies offering this service not only store and organize the email, they do so in compliance with the appropriate regulations.

More on email archiving
Email Archiving FAQ 

Email archiving tool purchase considerations 

Email archiving implementation: What you need to consider
For example, SEC Rules 17a-4, 204-2 and 31a-2 require storing relevant emails in WORM storage for a given period. Maintaining separate WORM storage just for email adds to costs and increases support and management demands on storage administrators. Web-based email archiving can save these admins money and relieve a few headaches. Web-based archiving also typically offers secure storage. This provides a real disaster recovery benefit, since emails are automatically stored off site.

Archiving companies can usually provide an audit trail and certification of the email they handle. Having someone else establish the audit trail and be able to certify it offloads one task for storage administrators.

Of course, since the services are Web-based, anyone with the proper authorization can access the emails from any location. This can ease the process of retrieving emails for management or third parties, such as a company's attorneys.

Beyond that, there are several criteria for choosing a Web-based email archiving provider.

  • Investigate the service provider

    The stability, security and technical competence of the archiving service is critical. Investigate potential providers carefully. The consequences of a third-party failure in this area can be expensive and embarrassing.

  • Get the right archiving services

    Some email archiving products have very specific focuses. For example, For example, IT consulting company BeechTek offers its customers the ProMail email and IM online archiving service from EVault Inc., a Seagate company. ProMail is designed to meet the legal requirements of securities dealers, such as quickly retrieving the correspondence of licensed representatives under the National Association of Securities and Dealers (NASD) rules and regulations.

    If you're in a regulated industry with specific archiving requirements, you should strongly consider a service that is geared to your industry's needs.

  • What changes will the service require?

    A company called MIAGD Inc. offers an archiving service called AdvisorEmail, which requires using its email servers for email service. According to the company, using its servers for archiving closes the last link in the audit chain, but a company using this service might have to modify its archiving procedures.

  • Get the right feature set.

    Beyond the match to your industry's requirements, you should also look at the features the services offers. Web-based archiving implies fast, speedy searches of emails. Can the vendor deliver? Can you do elaborate searches? Are relevant emails easy to extract?

  • How often are you likely to need something from the archives?

    One of the major differences between email archiving and simply backing up email databases is the ease of search and recovery of specific messages or classes of messages. The tradeoff is that email archiving is considerably more expensive that simple backup.

    If all you need is very basic archiving, and you don't expect to have to access those emails often, or ever, then you're probably better off with your own archiving application, rather than a service.

    Web-based email archiving works best for organizations that need to access their old emails constantly. For example, a large securities dealer that has a constant trickle of NASD-related requests might find Web-based archiving a preferable approach. A company in an unregulated industry that is archiving email "just in case" would probably find the cost-benefit ratio much less compelling.

  • About the author: Rick Cook specializes in writing about issues related to storage and storage management.

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