Email archiving (also spelled e-mail archiving) is a systematic approach to saving and protecting the data contained in e-mail messages so it can be accessed quickly at a later date. In the past, companies often relied on end-users to maintain their own individual e-mail archives. The IT department would back up e-mail, but not in a manner that made messages searchable. If a specific e-mail needed to be traced, it often took weeks to find it. With today's compliance legislation and legal discovery rules, it has become necessary for many IT departments to manage the entire company's e-mail archiving in bulk so specific messages can be located in minutes, not weeks.
Policy-based e-mail archiving software applications allow IT managers to manage large e-mail archives, as well as to free up space on production servers and speed up backup times. These applications typically include indexing and search capabilities, access logs to provide a "virtual paper trail" in the event an e-mail is subpoenaed, and a lifecycle management component, which acts as kind of a traffic cop for all e-mail coming in to the company. The life cycle management component uses rules set up by the administrator. It will classify which e-mail messages need to be archived, migrate the messages to the most economical and efficient storage media, and automatically delete messages when they are no longer needed.