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E-mail archiving and data management

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With the exponential growth in data currently being experienced, and every indication that this information explosion will only accelerate into the future, organisations are faced with a number of data management challenges, says Bryan Balfe, Enterprise account manager at CommVault.Not only do they need to store and retain vast volumes of data for compliance purposes – often on ever shrinking IT budgets – but in order to unlock its value, they also need to be able to easily access and analyse information to identify trends, patterns and insights that could deliver competitive advantage.

Given the vast amount of critical business information that is typically sent via and stored within e-mail, e-mail archiving strategies have become an essential business tool. However, many organisations’ e-mail archiving strategies are unable to meet current demand, let alone catering to future growth. In order to ensure compliance, minimise risk and unlock the value of e-mail data, archiving strategies need to address long-term data management requirements.

One of the biggest issues facing organisations today is the fact that IT is tasked with managing far too much information. Everything is retained, because this is the way it has always been done. With the rate of data growth continuing to accelerate, this is no longer a feasible solution. IDC estimates that as much as 60-percent of business critical information is being stored in e-mail and other electronic messaging tools, which makes e-mail archiving strategies more important than ever.

However, maintaining all of this information within an e-mail exchange solution is costly and inefficient. As a result, punitive mailbox limits are often enforced, which forces users to create archive PST files on their machines, moving them offline, out of exchange servers and also outside of the control of the organisation. This practice has become increasingly risky in light of the critical nature of e-mail information, as well as the growing need for greater control with the introduction of new laws such as the Protection of Personal Information (PoPI) Act. These files are not only non-compliant, they are a security risk and they are hard to restore as they are inaccessible. Furthermore, these archive files also place potentially sensitive information into a format that is not protected by security policies and can be read by anyone.

Indiscriminate data retention is expensive – as data continuous to grow, more and more storage will be needed to house all of this information. In addition, if all of this information is retained within e-mail exchange, IT typically needs to spend so much time simply managing the mail server and growing storage requirements, that compliance with laws such as PoPI becomes increasingly onerous. Such a reactive process also practically guarantees that little to no value can be unlocked from the data, as most of IT’s resources are directed towards simply retaining information rather than analysing it in a way that will provide insight for the business.

These challenges highlight the need for organisations to focus on e-mail archive strategies that enable business to unlock value and insight from data while ensuring compliance. This will only become more important in the future as data volumes increase further, as more laws are introduced, and as the need to find any competitive advantage becomes even greater. There are seven warning signs that follow indicating an organisation’s e-mail archiving strategy will not support this need now or in the future.

You are collecting and storing everything
Many legacy archive solutions only support one option – to collect and store all data, without any intelligence to the approach. Given the rapid increase in data volumes, and the fact that the vast majority of stored information has no business value, this has become an impractical solution. Budget and resources are being wasted on managing data that is not necessary to the organisation. This problem will only compound in the future.

You are keeping it all forever
Legacy e-mail archives not only store everything, they also often lead to organisations keeping everything forever. Indiscriminate data retention actually creates more risk as without insight into archive contents organisations risk that this dark data actually exposes them to compliance issues. Understanding what data is stored and where and what should be discarded is becoming increasingly important, as within that data could reside information that could either harm or benefit the business.

You cannot control your Personal Storage (PST) files
As previously mentioned, PST files can expose organisations to risk, removing e-mail archives from the control of the organisation, placing them outside of the bounds of security policies, and creating an open format that can be read by anyone. They can also be stored in scattered locations, making them difficult to track down, access or search in the event of legal proceedings or compliance requests. If an e-mail archive strategy neglects to manage PST files and support users’ need for greater data retention flexibility, the overall composition of the archive is in jeopardy.

Your archiving isn’t cloud ready
While organisations may not be considering a move to the cloud currently, this is the way of the future. If your archive is not cloud ready, now is the time to consider options that will support future cloud implementations. This will lower storage costs and increase archive flexibility.

Your employees cannot access content themselves
Users of today and into the future need to be empowered to recover and restore their data without needing to wait hours or days for assistance from IT. This will help to improve employee productivity, eliminate manual processes around recovering legacy archive data, and enable the delivery of the right information to the right people at the right time.

You can’t discover data quickly
Compliance with Acts such as PoPI requires that organisations archive all pertinent information and use defensible deletion practices for content no longer being retained. Furthermore, organisations must be able to quickly and easily search enterprise-wide to discover all necessary information in a comprehensive and documented way. Without intuitive search functionality and an intelligent approach to e-mail archiving, eDiscovery becomes time consuming and exorbitantly expensive.

You’re not leveraging the value in your archived data
By enforcing indiscriminate data retention polices, legacy archiving strategies not only retain content that organisations do not need, they also all but ensure that valuable data gets lost in the clutter and cannot be utilised.

E-mail archiving strategies need to adapt to meet changing needs now and in the future, empowering organisations to manage data throughout its lifecycle, from creation to defensible deletion. A next-generation archiving solution that offers the ability to use content-based retention policies offers a number of benefits. Not only will it enable organisations to only retain what is important, optimising storage capacity costs, it also enables organisations to achieve file level analytics. This allows for the exploitation of retained information to improve business decision-making. Unlocking the value of e-mail archives means that organisations will be able to not only minimise risk around retained information, but realise the full value-added potential of data that costs so much to store, protect and manage.