Email Archiving: Why Backups Alone Don’t Cut It

Backup and archiving are processes that solve different problems. It’s important to have a backup system in place; however, assuming your backup provides you with archiving capabilities can be a costly mistake! Backup is an application-driven technology that is not optimized for search. An archiving system is an information-driven technology that is indexed and searchable.

If your system crashes, backup can enable you to restore your entire system, including the most recently backed-up versions of files. It does this by restoring data in blocks, often huge blocks, in a process that restores not only individual pieces of data like a Word document but also application and OS files. An archive, by contrast, can be used to quickly locate specific data objects–say, 10 or 11 emails you exchanged with a client. Even if the emails are no longer on your mail server, your archive enables you to find and restore them quickly by searching for key terms, like the client’s name. Using backup to accomplish this same task would be almost unheard of because it would require a complex restoration and search process, greatly diminishing employee productivity and likely outweighing the benefits of delving into past records. An archive ensures business continuity by keeping records accessible.

Ediscovery requests often play out very differently if you rely on backup alone rather than choosing to archive. Every company that comes under litigation may be mandated to produce ESI (electronically stored information) under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. If you’re ordered to produce ESI that is spread across several non-indexed backup tapes, the process can become extremely expensive and disruptive for the IT Department. By contrast, an indexed archive enables you to easily place Legal Holds on documents within date ranges or with specific keywords. When you produce ESI from an archive you also know it is in its original, unaltered form. That’s because each email, attachment and document is archived the moment you click “send” — there’s no hang time between the time you send it and the time your company files are next backed up. Thus, you’re able to produce mandated information with confidence.

While business continuity and risk management are major reasons why an archive is invaluable, they are far from the only reasons. Other services backup cannot guarantee but an archive easily provides: reducing the load on your mail server by cataloging old emails in a separate location, providing a low-cost long-term storage solution for ESI, and enabling you to comply with federal, state and local data retention policies.