With e-mail volumes increasing, IT budgets decreasing, legal discovery issues becoming a more common occurrence and an organization’s dependence on e-mail for business success being the norm, it’s no wonder that e-mail administrators are under increased pressure to keep on top of e-mail. There is no doubt that anyone in this position has thought about whether moving to a hosted e-mail archiving solution could be a realistic proposition for them.

First, let’s take a quick look at what exactly e-mail archiving ‘in the cloud’ is, and how it works. The image below depicts a typical hosted e-mail archive system.

The idea is that the e-mail archive is stored in a datacentre hosted within the cloud (i.e.: the Internet), as opposed to being kept internally as part of the company’s infrastructure. As the image shows:

  1. Inbound and outbound e-mails are routed from the company’s e-mail server to the cloud based archive via a secure channel (usually TLS).
  2. Users access the online archive via the Internet (typically a web-based interface or an e-mail client connector).

What should you look for in a cloud-based e-mail archiving solution?

Well, at minimum your chosen provider should offer maximum availability, cross platform support for different e-mail systems, a tamper proof database, an audit trail, report generation and comprehensive yet easy to use search functionality.

Why would someone want to move to a cloud-based e-mail archiving solution?

While there are a number of factors that could sway your decision either way, ultimately it depends on the size of your business and its long term requirements. Cost is possibly going to be the most probabilistic factor for most SMEs. You will have to weigh up the expenses related to storage, power, bandwidth, software, maintenance (patching, monitoring and upgrading the on-premise servers), productivity in terms of the e-mail admin’s time spent on management and administration and user productivity in terms of time saved not having to manage their own e-mail archive locally. One finance related benefit of moving to a cloud-based archiving solution is that your costs change from being unpredictable variables to fixed expenses – a pay-as-you-go model where you know how much you have to pay each month and can change your payment plan depending on your e-mail archiving needs.

Another important factor to consider is your e-discovery needs – do you have the necessary systems and processes in place to respond to an e-discovery request in as little time as possible? If the answer is no, evaluate the risk and likeliness of your organization being caught in the middle of a litigation battle and do everything you can to ensure you are ready for the eventuality that you will one day have the solicitors knocking at your door. A small investment now can save you a lot of money and a lot of pain in the future. Therefore, do ensure that your e-mail archiving cloud provider offers e-discovery compliance and the necessary functionality you need.

Finally, due consideration must also be given to e-mail system performance – can your current archiving system cope with the load as volume increases?

Do you have the resources available to scale out?

When moving to a cloud-based archiving solution, one critical thing to keep in mind is a migration strategy. The last thing you want is to spend countless hours moving data into the cloud or worse still, lose some e-mails in the process of doing so.

There is really no black or white answer as to whether you should or shouldn’t move to a cloud based archiving solution. While an on-premise solution may work very well for some companies, a more comprehensive ‘in the cloud’ archiving solution is needed by others. Whatever you decide, always remember to look out for compliance, continuity and flexibility. If you can find these and balance them with reasonable cost, you’re golden.