Why should I archive when I have cloud email?

Danny Bradbury

cloud_squareYou may think that using cloud-based email means that your enterprise email archiving needs are taken care of, but that's not quite true. A separate cloud-based email archiving solution provides functionality that your cloud email system simply can’t, which could give you significant advantages over the competition. Moreover, in many cases, separate cloud email archiving may be a legal requirement. Here are five reasons to consider it:

Archived means delete-proof

People may mistake a searchable mailbox for an archive, but corporate email archiving provides more than mere search. Email archiving is a tamper-proof record of communications within your company that legal experts can rely on. Records cannot be deleted or changed in an email archive, because it is encrypted, compressed, timestamped, and electronically protected from alteration.

Conversely, your email inbox is entirely alterable. You could change or delete any email in your history at will in your mailbox, making it useless from a legal perspective. This alone disqualifies your mailbox as an email archiving tool.

You don’t archive where you store

Using your inbox as your email archive makes you vulnerable. Should something happen to your email service provider, you risk losing all records of your email along with your operating mailboxes. This could be financially costly, because it limits your ability to reproduce communications when prompted by the legal department, and potentially makes you noncompliant with regulations in your industry. A separate business email archive – ideally with a third party provider - protects your company.

Grown-up searchability

Searching is better with properly archived email. You may think that typing a couple of key words into a search bar in your cloud email is enough, but it doesn’t scale. Lawyers cost hundreds of dollars an hour, and they will happily charge this to sift through information that isn’t easily findable to try and reconstruct conversations.

Email archiving solutions provide a more structured search process, because they automatically index every email, producing a comprehensive set of metadata describing its various characteristics. These include everything from the time sent, through to who was included in the communication, and what was attached to the email, if anything.

Metadata can be used to quickly construct a verifiable audit trail for any particular conversation, showing investigators how it unfolded over time. You might be able to do this with your cloud-based email search, but it would be prohibitively expensive and time-consuming in many cases.

360-degree visibility

For many companies these days, email is only one part of the communication landscape. Employees may use a company-sanctioned instant messaging system, along with SMS texts, and voice messages sent via email. A properly configured email archiving solution can capture all of these communications and store them within a protected database, making the record of communications complete. Your cloud-based email will be unlikely to do this.

Get the bigger picture

What isn’t your cloud email telling you? Beyond letting you know when you are nearing your storage limit, probably not much. On the other hand, the indexed data in your email archive can tell you a lot, including the following:

  • Which employees are responding to emails most quickly?
  • Which are losing you opportunities by lagging in their replies?
  • Are any employees regularly communicating with people that they shouldn’t, such as competitors, for example?
  • Are any email accounts inactive, indicating that they should be closed to prevent a security risk?

You can find out all of these things using business intelligence reports produced easily from an email archive, putting you 10 steps ahead of those people relying purely on cloud email to provide a record of their communications.

An email archive cannot only be a valuable asset to the IT department, but is also a requirement in many cases. Conflating cloud-based email with email archiving is a mistake that could come back to bite you in the future.