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10 key considerations for email archiving

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    Bringing in old messages from a mail server generally requires an intensive migration process using the MAPI protocol. This can take a few days, so the process is often performed over a weekend; large environments and those with email servers in multiple locations may find that it takes much longer.

    Most email clients store personal archives on local disks, so these may be anywhere your users are, including laptops, desktops, network shares and portable drives. This makes importing archives tricky, as they must first be located and consolidated. Not every system can handle all formats, which can range from Outlook PST to Notes NSF, to Unix mbox and maildir files.

    No matter where historic messages are imported from, the archive that contains them should be flagged as incomplete and potentially unreliable if ediscovery is a consideration. Both email servers and personal archives are almost certainly missing a great many messages. It's a trivial operation to change the content of most personal archives; modern email archive systems are far more tamper-proof.

  1. Can the archive handle multiple email systems?
    Not every email archiving application is capable of handling multiple email servers. If your environment features more than one email server, and especially if a variety of email systems are

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  1. in use, this feature could prove critical. Generally speaking, archives that use a messaging gateway are far more flexible in heterogeneous environments than those that integrate more directly with the mail system.

    This is especially common in organizations created as the result of corporate mergers, but some organizations find themselves in possession of heterogeneous mail systems for historic reasons. Whatever the cause, many email archive solutions don't support all of the various email servers, including Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Notes/Domino, Unix mail and Apple's mail server.



  2. What about non-message content?
    Some email archiving applications focus only on messages, while others can also archive calendar items, tasks and contacts. A few also support other applications, including file systems, instant messages and database applications. Not every environment needs this type of archiving, but be sure to set expectations with management and your legal department about what is and isn't saved. While some archiving systems support content outside the email system, "email is the most critical," maintains Kelly Ferguson, senior product marketing manager for email archiving at EMC Corp. "Including file systems and SharePoint is nice, but email must get under control because it has the biggest risk due to message proliferation. Customers are starting with email, but have the expectation that the system can expand to other content types as need arises."

This was first published in June 2008

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