What is email archiving and why is it important for your business?

Despite strong pressure from an array of sources - from cloud-based applications to shadow consumer IT - email still largely dominates the business messaging space.  If it is important to a business, it will be communicated by email.

IDC estimates that as much as 60% of all business data is stored on email – and much of it exclusively. With so much critical information stored this way, it is short-sighted to trust a single point of failure.

For this reason, it is important for security and technology teams to have an email archiving strategy – without which, several problems can arise.

Why do I need to archive emails?

Email archiving is the process of capturing and storing all the messages your employees send and receive in a separate, secure, tamper-proof database in the cloud.

Email archiving provides a central location to store mails that you no longer need direct access to.

Why do I need email archiving?

The first reason is to ensure companies are meeting the regulatory burden placed upon them.  For some organisations, government bodies such as the SEC, FCA and others mandate that email must be stored within a very tightly controlled set of parameters.

Not only must email be stored in this way, but the data needs to be retrievable in its original format, quickly and easily.  Without effective archiving, this can be an arduous task.

Secondly, it is not just regulators who may come knocking with the legal ability to request emails within a short timeframe.

In an increasingly litigious business environment, legal proceedings often demand swift access to critical evidential data often stored on email.  If emails have been deleted or are hard to find, it can be costly and time-consuming, or worst case impossible, to retrieve them.

Finally, there’s downtime.  With a growing reliance on an ever-decreasing number of enterprise email providers, such as Office 365 and Gmail, the risk is essentially centralised.

When these providers suffer an outage, which is not uncommon, users lose access not only to an important communications tool but also to a vital data store and search capability.  In short, the PowerPoint decks, Word docs and PDFs that the entire workforce relies upon, suddenly become unavailable.

The loss of access to this critical unstructured data comes with a serious business cost which, according to Gartner, weighs in at as much as $5,600 per minute.  On the ground, lost business opportunities and missed deadlines do not stop piling up just because it is inside the Microsoft ’99.9% uptime’ guarantee.

How do I address these problems?

Such problems can be avoided with an email archiving strategy which, while not as eye-catching for many cyber security and risk teams as stopping next-generation attacks, is a vital piece of data security hygiene.

While suites such as Office 365 do have basic email archiving, as with many native applications, they fall short of the advanced solutions offered by specialist providers.

The contemporary email archiving solution should, as a bare minimum, provide users with always-on access to all email history.

Email archiving should be implemented alongside Emergency Inbox functionality which allows a user to continue to receive, read and reply to email should the primary email service fail. The Emergency Inbox typically includes access to 7-30 days of email history, with the archive enabling access to older message stores. Combined, these features provide the employee base with a failover mechanism to maintain operations in the event of downtime.

Secondly, standard email archiving lacks a lot of the functions that allow full compliance with the guidance of regulators and the requirements of legal teams or audits.

For example, many organisations are compelled to use email archives that are tamper-proof and that therefore guarantee message integrity – or assurance that archived messages have not been modified. Only third-party specialist solutions provide such advanced functionality.

It is also important to ensure that all archived email data is protected.  This means using a secure message repository with everything encrypted on separate infrastructure.

Email archiving is a much overlooked, but important, tool for mitigating an everyday risk to the data that security teams manage.  Done correctly, it can be a driver of productivity, at the same time as protecting an organisation in an increasingly regulated and litigious business environment.

Find out more about additional solutions to guarantee always-on access to and integrity of emails here.

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