Email archiving tool purchase considerations

The purchase considerations for email archiving tools.

Email has emerged as a critical tool for business communication, and this has had a profound impact on archiving. Today, email must be retained for years, but the sheer glut of email presents serious storage issues and performance problems for the email server.

Instead, email is regularly indexed and archived out of the email server to a secondary storage system for long-term retention. If an email or thread is needed later, often in response to litigation, the email archive's contents can be searched to locate relevant data. However, not all email archiving tools are created equal. For example, an archiving tool must interface with your email or database system, yet impose few performance penalties against the applications using the email archive. It's also important to have retention rules planned ahead of time and consider the need for index/search capabilities to address e-discovery demands. Email is constantly growing, so an email archiving tool must scale well as email storage increases.

There are many email archiving tools available, each with particular strengths and a specific focus. For example, tools like C2C Systems' Archive One are intended for Microsoft Exchange, while EMC.'s EmailXtender v4.8 supports servers like Exchange, Domino and Sendmail. Now that you've reviewed the essential issues involved in any tiered storage acquisition, this segment will first focus on specific considerations for email archiving tools. After that, you'll also find a series of specifications to help make on-the-spot product comparisons between vendors, including CA, IBM, Mimosa Systems, Symantec, Zantaz Inc.

Consider the compatibility with current software. Email archiving tools should interface closely with your existing email or database system. The issue really lies in the number of platforms that are compatible and the level of compatibility for each platform. Smaller organisations with no long-term plans to change their email platform may get better results with a narrowly focused email archiving product, while large organisations that actually use more then one email/database system will likely benefit from a cross-platform compatible tool. As an example, MailMeter Archive from Waterford Technologies Inc. supports Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Domino and Ipswitch IMail along with SQL Server and Oracle. By comparison, Mimosa NearPoint for Microsoft Exchange Server is primarily intended for recent versions of Exchange.

Consider the performance and scalability. Email archiving tools will invariably have an impact on their related applications. For example, an email archiving tool for Microsoft Exchange will impose a performance penalty on Exchange (and users). In addition, archive performance can decline as the archive platform scales with more users, more email boxes and larger storage limits for each user. Email archive administrators are challenged to gauge the performance impact and scalability of an archive tool and determine its acceptability to the enterprise. In both cases, lab testing prior to a purchase can help to uncover unexpected performance or scaling problems.

Use retention and deletion policies already available. Email archiving tools can all be configured to accommodate data retention and deletion, but selecting the best retention rules can be almost impossible to do on the fly. It is much easier to map an existing retention policy into an archive tool than to create new rules as needed, and experts note that the company's current document retention policy is usually a good starting point.

Ensure adequate storage for the archive. Email archiving tools will demand storage on another server or storage array. Nearline SATA-type storage usually offers adequate performance, but the actual amount of archival storage will depend on the size and number of email messages. Vendors, like Mimosa, suggest that email archive storage may demand up to three times the size of the production Exchange server, but a proliferation of attachments can demand additional storage resources. Storage requirements will also vary with corporate retention policies. Long retention policies and "litigation hold" features will save more email, swelling the total requirements even further. Most email archiving products include data reduction technologies that can reduce storage demands, such as compression or data deduplication. The email archiving vendor can typically offer a better estimate once they are more familiar with your mail server environment and compliance needs.

Evaluate specialised features. While virtually all email archiving tools are adept at data storage and retrieval, it's important to select a tool with features suited for your specific needs. For example, an organisation that is particularly concerned with litigation might select an email archiving tool with extensive metadata creation and indexing or strong e-discovery search capabilities. If business continuance or disaster recovery are priorities, you might opt for an archive tool with remote replication features.

Consider the effect of software maintenance and licensing fees. The cost of software maintenance contracts and annual licensing fees can significantly boost the cost of an email archiving product, and should always be factored into TCO estimates prior to a purchase. For example, GFI's MailArchiver for Exchange carries standard purchase pricing down to $7.88 per mailbox ($7880 for a 1000 mailbox license). However, this only includes 3 months of upgrades and maintenance -- an annual service agreement would cost 20% of the purchase price per year.

The email archiving product specifications page in this chapter covers the following products:


  • C2C; Archive One
  • EMC Corp.; EmailXtender Archive Edition
  • Fortiva Inc.; Fortiva Archive
  • GFI Software; MailArchiver software
  • IBM; CommonStore software family
  • MessageSolution Inc.; Enterprise Email Archiving Suite 4.0
  • Mimosa Systems Inc.; NearPoint for Microsoft Exchange Server
  • Open Text Corp.; Email Archiving software
  • Quest Software Inc.; Archive Manager
  • Sherpa Software; Archive Attender for Microsoft Exchange
  • Symantec Corp.; Enterprise Vault
  • Waterford Technologies Inc.; MailMeter Archive
  • Zantaz Inc.; Digital Safe
  • Zantaz Inc.; Enterprise Archive Solution (EAS)
  • Zantaz Inc.; First Archive
    Return to the beginning

    Get a quote for your next Email Archiving solution

Read more on IT risk management