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10 key considerations for email archiving

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  1. What will users think?
    There's a spectrum of email client integration: some archives offer no integration and rely on a Web browser interface for archive access, while others use toolbars, executable extensions for certain clients or archive folders pushed from the mail server. Regardless of the technology used, consider the user's reaction (see "What users want," below). How will their interaction with their email client change once the archive is in place? If executable extensions are required to be installed on client machines, consider the impact of this rollout.

    Think about the alternative email clients in use. Most organizations offer Web email clients, but some archiving systems don't integrate with those. Many users also access their mail using mobile devices such as BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Palm, iPhone and Symbian. However, most archiving systems have little or no mobile device integration beyond Web access, and these sites are sometimes poorly formatted or too graphically complex for mobile browsers. Off-line access is another key differentiator. If a user can access their archived messages while on a plane, they'll be far more likely to accept the system.

    This article didn't cover the technical elements about product applicability to different storage environments, which are paramount considerations. Can, for example, the

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  1. archiving application handle the size of your email system and the number of messages sent and received daily? Also consider whether the archiving product supports the operating systems and geographical layout of your email system. Not all email archiving solutions are able to scale equally.
What users want
The No. 1 factor in positioning an email archiving project for success is user acceptance. If your system can deliver in the following three areas, you'll have much happier users.
  • COMPLETE INTEGRATION. Will the user see an unfamiliar Web link or a reassuring Outlook or Notes window? This is the first question most users ask when they're being trained to use a new archiving system, and one that every IT pro should keep in mind when selecting a product. The less hassle and more familiarity, the better the user experience will be.


  • OFFLINE ACCESS. Can a user access the archive when they're on a plane? A system that cuts users off from the bulk of their mail just because they're not on the network is bound to generate complaints. It might also lead them to start "underground archives" in PST or NSF files, undermining your record-retention policy. While administrators can disable the creation of these personal archives, this further frustrates offline users with no access to their historic messages.


  • MOBILE ACCESS. If you give users all of their mail no matter where they are or how they access the system, they'll love it. This is especially true when it comes to PST ingestion; the ability to access their personal historical mail from the Web on their BlackBerry is a powerful benefit that users will instantly understand and embrace.

This was first published in June 2008

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