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Archiving Email–Some Considerations

Businesses live and die by email. Orders are submitted, proposals are sent, meetings are scheduled, and deals are made through email. So emails have a tendency to accumulate rapidly. No one wants to delete email because they like to have a record of the communication. There’s the fear that if you delete and old email you’ll need it later. It’s a security blanket of sorts. And some employees will use email as a default document management system, categorizing emails by client name, etc. These and other factors tend to contribute to large email stores, and large mailbox sizes.

Since data is expensive to store and backup, and accounts with large mailboxes can be more problematic to manage, not only can the uncontrolled saving of email become expensive to maintain, but it can also become a liability for the company.

Archiving Email

To technically solve this problem many companies will install an email Archiving solution. If they are using Microsoft’s Exchange 2010 an archiving solution is built into the product, Archiving email enables organizations to move older, or less accessed, emails out of the main data store and onto a less expensive, less accessed, storage solution. It doesn’t keep emails from accumulating, but it does control where they are stored and how they are managed. Typically, users can easily retrieve archived emails when they’re needed.

Using Hyperlinks

One of the foremost reasons why mailboxes grow in size quickly is ‘attachments’. Attaching documents to emails will quickly grow a mailbox store size. It will not only increase the growth of the mailbox sending the document(s) but also increase the size of all the recipients’ mailboxes.

If users have a need to collaborate on documents within an organization there’s a simple remedy for this problem: Hyperlinks. Instead of sending the documents themselves, send a hyperlink, which is a pointer, to the document. The recipient will be able to click on the hyperlink and pull up the document without adding it to their mailbox. This is also best practice for collaboration purposes because when hyperlinks are used everyone views and edits the same document, not copies of it. This means that everyone sees the final product, not an outdated copy of it in their email store.

Mailbox Size Limits

Most companies will impose mailbox size limits on employees. This process limits the overall size of a user’s mailbox and will force the user to archive or delete email to keep the size within the limits imposed. Various actions can be taken if the user fails to heed the mailbox size limit warning. One such action, once the mailbox has reached a specified size limit, is to inhibit the ability to send emails. The user may be allowed to receive them for a limited time, but their ability to send or reply is inhibited.

Other Considerations

In addition to the IT cost for maintaining large email stores, keeping old emails can be a company liability. For instance, if a company is legally required to produce old emails for a court case the discovery costs can be huge. This requirement can be forced upon a company by an ex-employee bringing a suit, or any one of other legal proceedings that require a company produce their archived communications.

To limit liability, and the cost of discovery, in this type of situation, most companies will establish an “Email Retention Policy”. That is simply a formal document that states how far back in time the company will keep emails. If such a policy is in place and published to employees, the company is not liable to produce anything older than the retention date.

In conclusion, not limiting email retention and not imposing mailbox limits are expensive. Companies that are not proactive in establishing policies executing them find that out the hard way.