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10 key considerations for email archiving

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  1. What about deduplication?
    Deduplication is a hot topic and most email archiving vendors were early adopters of this capacity-saving technology. Email archivers that support deduplication will store only one copy of duplicate messages to conserve space and then link the messages in the archive. Some applications apply this only to entire messages, while others "crack" the message objects apart, deduplicating attachments separately, which saves even more space.


  2. Will the legal department be happy?
    Although not all email archiving is performed to adhere to regulations, you must be prepared for a possible lawsuit that involves legal holds (this places a lock on certain emails) and ediscovery. Some archives produce exception logs and reports, and support extra-secure back-end storage to ensure that any content produced from them will satisfy the demands of litigation.

    EMC's Ferguson points out that records of an archive system can be even more important than user meta data. "Who accessed the archive and what they looked at can be critical," says Ferguson. "This goes to the deletion policy as well; the system must keep track of every deletion that happens to prove that the archive is operating according to collection and retention policies." Some archiving applications can produce chain-of-custody

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  1. reports for exported content, while others have security features such as encryption and SAS 70 security compliance audits (see "Email supervision," below).

    If legal is interested in email archiving, they're probably looking for litigation-hold functionality. When a legal action seems imminent, they must instruct IT to hold a set of content in an immutable form in case legal discovery is required.

    Some archiving applications include native litigation-hold features, but their granularity varies. Hold could apply to an individual object, a message, a folder, a user, a mailbox or an entire mail store, but not all systems can handle this variety. "Some can't place a litigation hold on individual items and need to hold an entire mailbox or message store to ensure that retention rules are stopped," claims Bill Tolson, director of legal and regulatory solutions marketing at Mimosa Systems Inc.

    You should also determine if the system can handle multiple overlapping holds and change the scope of a hold without releasing it. Finally, the legal department might have different expectations about how to specify a hold; check with them to see if they have any unique requirements.

Email supervision
Financial Services companies were the first to implement email archiving, and the primary driver was a ruling known as NASD 3010 that calls for "email supervision." Put simply, financial services companies must sample, examine and approve messages flowing in and out of their email systems to watch for inappropriate behavior by securities brokers.

Although supervision isn't a feature that companies outside the securities industry would want (or even know about), it's critical to those involved. If you need it, this feature is a deal breaker; finding out whether or not an archiving product you're considering supports it should therefore be your first question.

This was first published in June 2008

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