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How Not To Archive Your Email

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As product manager of Rackspace Archiving, I have the fortune of speaking to many of our Rackspace Archiving customers. I also encounter those of you who don’t use the product, but have come up with some creative and surprising – sometimes potentially damaging — ways to archive email. And there are a number of you who don’t archive email at all.

Modern business is fueled by email. It’s a necessary tool. And improper email archiving is a dangerous game. Here, I’ll remind you of some of the reasons you and your employees should archive email; and tell you how not to archive (unless, of course, your company doesn’t mind some of the legal and compliance headaches that can arise when email goes un-archived).

If you have other suggestions (dos and don’ts) for email archiving; leave a comment below.

First, let’s recap why employees should archive their email:

1. Insurance Policy: Back up email just in case a message is lost or deleted from a mailbox.

2. Clean Inbox from Clutter: Maintain productivity and save on purchasing extra email mailbox storage. Rackspace Archiving and other archiving solutions tend to have stronger and more flexible search capabilities than webmail solutions and email clients.

3.  Knowledge Transfer: Email is the most important communication for a business. Keep the data and transfer to future employees, especially helpful where employee turnover is high, for example, sales teams.

4. Employee Monitoring: Monitor employees for proactive litigation prevention and work evaluation.

5. Compliance: Email archiving tends to be a part of many industry regulations. It is important to note that Rackspace does not guarantee that archiving alone will make you compliant. Companies should consult their legal team to see if Rackspace Archiving or other archiving products fits their compliance requirements.

6. Lawsuits: Companies of all sizes are prone to lawsuits. Yes, I am even talking to the two-person small businesses out there. They can happen at any time and often involve email. Remember the Petraeus scandal?

Ways you should not archive email:

1. Personal Storage Tables (PST) Files on Local Hard Drive: This method relies on employees to save PST files to their local hard drive. This is a bad idea. PSTs are difficult to search and can easily become corrupt. There is an entire industry around this. Search “PST corruption” on search engines and over 5 million results come up.

2. PSTs to Cloud Storage Products: The current industry cloud storage products are pretty solid. But again, this requires one to first store PSTs to a local hard drive before it can be saved to a cloud storage product.

3. Relying on Hosted Providers’ Backup Policies: Many businesses believe in the myth that their hosted email providers backup their email data forever. Most hosted email providers do have backup policies but they tend to be much shorter. Customers of Rackspace email platforms have between 15 and 30 day backup depending on the email.

4. Selective Email Archiving: Many employees will archive specific emails. This usually works for them but you should think about future repercussions. First, think about how often you wish you would have saved something so you can go back to and recover. Second, what are the potential legal consequences for deleting specific emails?

5. Portable Storage: Some like to archive their email data to a separate server, DVD or thumb drive. This again presents significant downsides and risks. These devices do not come close to the redundancies that cloud archiving products like Rackspace Archiving provides. They are also prone to breaking, being stolen or lost or suffering damage in a natural disaster.

6. No Archiving: New businesses often tend to not archive their email at all. These companies are small, new and still putting together all of the pieces. This is the most pivotal time for a company, so keeping the data for knowledge transfer and litigation is necessary.

I hope this has provoked some thought around how your business archives email (or maybe how it does not archive email). Assess the risk of your current solutions and evaluate email archiving products in the market. If you are a customer of Rackspace email platforms, I hope you will include Rackspace Archiving in your evaluation. If you are not currently hosting your email with Rackspace, check us out; I think we have pretty solid email solutions for your business.

About the Author

This is a post written and contributed by Tom DuScheid.

Tom DuScheid has been product manager for Rackspace Archiving since 2010. During that time he and Sonian have added 100,000 users. Tom has been a Racker since 2008; serving as product manager for Hosted SharePoint and SendGrid. He is a 2009 graduate of Virginia Tech Pamplin College of Business.


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  • Mike

    Great post. Another consideration is supplier/client/contract, etc management. Lots of times negotiations, “soft” contract terms and/or prescribed action items are communicated via email. In the case that an event or dispute arises as to who is responsible for what, or if a promise/commitment was made, it’s important to be able to quickly locate any and all discussion points that anyone in your organization has had in regards to the matter. Archiving makes this quick and easy- and most importantly, gives you the complete picture of your organizations involvement rather than relying on hearsay and peoples sometimes unreliable memories! Thanks for the insight, Tom.

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