by Orlando Scott-Cowley
Email is still the dominant form of communication in businesses today. It pervades almost every system and transaction and still remains a quick, casual form of communication. Email has become a mission critical application within businesses because of the importance of the data transacted through, and stored in, email environments.
A decade or so ago, as IT departments began to recognize the growing importance of the corporate email environment, they started to add supporting services and platforms around the core server environment, which is predominantly Microsoft Exchange. Appliances, applications and services to protect and store email were added, usually driven by business problems as well as changing corporate governance requirements.
Email archiving was one such platform, and remains of critical importance today. Email archiving systems were first added to our networks in the mid to late 1990s, initially designed to solve storage management problems, but more recently utilized to enable businesses to retain a complete record of their corporate knowledge and intellectual property. Long term retention of email nowadays is invariably driven by a need to respond to legal obligations under subpoena or eDiscovery request, or mitigate against the threat of data loss due to disaster or accident.
The advent of Cloud Computing in the same timeframe has disrupted these traditional on-premise email archiving markets. Cloud Computing has permeated almost every industry in ways even the most forward thinking IT departments could never have imagined. The result is a paradigm shift in modern computing. The rise of the Cloud could even be described as the dawn of a new computing age.
Those old on-premise archives are being eclipsed by the capabilities of a new type of Cloud-based email archive, an Interactive Archive.
The Interactive Archive, driven by the Cloud, is a more useful, valuable and interactive archiving platform for business users. The Interactive Archive allows users to leverage the archive and data therein for business intelligence, as well as end user productivity, ubiquitous access, and the corporate governance and compliance requirements that underpin the archive itself.
The concept of an Interactive Archive delivered from the Cloud requires a new way realizing value in a computing platform. The Interactive Archive is one that will be deployed from the Cloud, but not all Cloud archives are created in the same way. Simply archiving email in the Cloud only removes the local storage overhead and expenditure, while giving the users a degree of flexibility in terms of access – in fact, most Cloud archives are still about storage and eDiscovery.
The Interactive Archive is about much more – it’s about extending beyond this ‘simply-storage’ model by offering to leverage more of the value in the archived data. It’s a platform that puts the productivity benefits of using email back in the users’ hands by making their personal archives available in many ways – as well as including sources of information that would otherwise need a change in work flow for end users.
The Interactive Archive is one that acquires and consolidates the user’s desktop applications as a source of information – their web applications and services, their corporate information flows in platforms like email and mobile platforms – then provides a central and single copy under management. Importantly a single view of all these information streams also gives the business a concise, forensic and complete repository for eDiscovery, compliance and business intelligence use. The important concept of ‘interactiveness’ comes from the end users and the business can make use of the data; platforms such as Outlook, SharePoint, mobile devices and APIs all bring new ways to leverage the accumulated data. Delivering business intelligence back to the organization by leveraging the data-exhaust of the Interactive
Archive now becomes possible too; in short making the data within the archive worth more than simply an eDiscovery tool.
To find out more about Mimecast’s vision for the Interactive Archive, download our Whitepaper – “Is your Email Archive a Goldmine or a Black Hole?“
Following TechCrunch’s recent post ‘The Only Reason Companies Delete Emails Is To Destroy Evidence’, I joined many commentators discussing the various reasons why businesses might (or should) delete or archive their email in light of the News Corp revelations. Whereas it used to be time consuming and costly to retain emails, primarily due to the cost of storage, today no such constraints exist. In fact, there is no longer any technical reason whatsoever to delete email. Interestingly, corporate tendencies seem to differ across the pond: I have found that Americans delete, whereas Europeans hoard.
Email archiving, in particular, used to be expensive and hard to do well – specially for organisations the size of News Corp. Customers had to buy horrendously expensive systems and pay exorbitant maintenance to keep them going. So it’s not surprising that companies opted for the safest, cheapest and easiest way to manage this problem: deletion. However, this problematic solution is no longer necessary now there are low-cost, seamless archiving solutions for business email.
TechCrunch’s post does, however, point out how useful it can be to have certain communications saved, particularly when retrieval of a conversation is required in the pursuit of justice:
“The News Corp. phone-hacking scandal continues to spiral out of control […] A paper copy of a deleted email found in a crate ties deputy COO James Murdoch directly to the events under investigation.”
Clearly, archiving is crucial in order to maintain transparency within a business. So it’s really more a question of “Should emails be deleted at all?”
With an email archive where you are storing the only copy of the email, you can ensure an email is permanently deleted instead of residing in hundreds of places on the LAN. But how do you decide what to delete and when? On the one hand, companies are often fearful of compliance (like HIPAA, SOX or FSA) or they can be afraid of litigation.
Key to TechCrunch’s post, which commentators seem to forget, is the rules around retention. In the US, for example:
“[if] you can reasonably anticipate legal action on these emails then you are bound by FRCP to hold those documents in anticipation of a possible discovery. Destruction of emails once you know a legal hold is necessary could expose an organization (public or private) to court sanctions for spoliation.”
It’s a fine line to tread, but there is a way forward with well-designed retention policies.
In addition, we see completely different attitudes on the two sides of the Atlantic: in the US, there is a desire to delete everything as quickly as possible to reduce discovery costs and potential litigation. Whereas, in Europe we are much more likely to see a “keep everything” attitude.
As archiving improves, surely there is a legitimate reason to keep everything if you can reduce the discovery costs and avoid these issues, because — certainly, in News Corp.’s case — the deletion seems over-zealous.
Customers of Mimecast don’t have to pay exorbitant fees or suffer bad infrastructure to retain everything they want to, because they outsource it to the Cloud. Those who want to implement deletion policies can do the same; ensuring the right information is deleted at the right time and removing human error from the process.
Last week Bloor research released a new report: Email archiving best practices- a competitive overview of the major players and if you’re thinking about buying email archiving and want to compare vendors, it’s a great resource.
by Orlando Scott-Cowley
The report was authored by Fran Howarth, whom I last met in April at infosec and had a great conversation with. One of the things I really liked about Fran’s perspective on email archiving is that she doesn’t just look at it from a retention or compliance only basis. Fran believes that the productivity gains from effective email archiving are just as important when selecting an email archiving vendor:
Email is of vital importance as a communications and collaboration tool as it is one of the prime ways that business information is communicated and shared. This makes its storage and archiving a necessity for maintaining and improving productivity by being able to retrieve information as it is needed. Yet operational efficiency is not the only driver for investing in email archiving technology. Owing to the amount of business information that it contains, email constitutes the leading type of evidence requested for litigation purposes and its preservation is also essential for complying with the requirements of a variety of governmental and industry regulations.
For the comparison- Fran analyses:
- Google (Postini)
Each company is analysed on:
- Company Background
- Current Offering
- Market Presence
It’s a really interesting report- and available to download here.
Our last set of predictions for 2011 may have some way to go before they become reality, but having spent a few moments searching for 2011 predictions on the Internet, I’m confident most of what is out there is a very long way off, if not a just a little scary too.
As this week is the first proper business week of 2011, I’m wondering what we are likely to see in the Email Archiving industry this year and if anything dramatic will shape its future.
In a highly un-scientific piece of research amongst my colleagues, the top issues I’m expecting to see in 2011 are as follows. By the way, I’m willing to take small wagers on their likelihood if you’re keen.
- The Archiving Market will see Further Consolidation: The last couple of years saw the arching market consolidate drastically, even during the economic downturn. I expect that for email archiving vendors this consolidation will continue, and we will see some surprising shifts in the market. SaaS and Cloud vendors are likely to be at the top of the shopping list for many on-premise vendors.
- Microsoft Exchange 2010 will go Mainstream: This blog has written many posts about the virtues of Exchange 2010, and rightly so. 2011 will see the large scale uptake of Exchange 2010 by mainstream organizations because of the new features it offers. Smart Businesses that have chosen not to archive to date, will use the migration to Microsoft Exchange 2010 as a catalyst to deploy a sustainable email archiving solution to ease migration headaches.
- Goodbye to Stubbing Emails: Many legacy email archives support the stubbing or short-cutting of email attachments or body content as a mechanism to reduce Exchange store size. Since Exchange 2007, Microsoft has been persuading users away from this dead technology because of the problems it causes in later life for migration and retrieval. 2011 will be the year that businesses needs to decide what to do about the great stubbing problem. This is a problem that isn’t going away and needs to be addressed. More on this blog soon.
- Say NO to Buying More Disks: For many organizations email archiving has been a way of life for years. Users continue to send and receive email, the archive continues to grow, disk space is eaten up at an alarming rate. To their hardware vendors delight and their CFOs despair, IT departments have continued to purchase more disk, and purchase more disk, and purchase more disk – or worse, start storing email on the SAN. 2011 should be the year the CFO says no to this maddening cycle, and asks the IT department to look for an alternative (he’s heard about Cloud). The IT department are likely to look at a cloud solution that doesn’t rely on local disk.
- New Search Engine for Symantec Enterprise Vault: The search engine built into Symantec’s Enterprise Vault email archive has long been due for an upgrade. Rumor has it that Symantec are considering the Vivisimo Velocity search engine for a release later this year. This will mean a couple of things for users of Enterprise Vault. New 64bit hardware is likely to be needed, and data needs to be re-indexed – both of which are big jobs. Time to consider your options? More on this particular issue on this blog soon.
- eDiscovery Becoming More and More Important: Already an important driver for many regulated or legal centric businesses, but I expect that 2011 will make eDiscovery a much more mainstream issue for businesses. New regulations in the US like the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform (and Consumer Protection) act are likely to put a much larger burden on relevant businesses, but the knock-on effect of this and all other regulations that require email archiving, retention and eDiscovery will finally start to trickle over into non-regulated organizations. As is popular in the UK and Europe, the retention of everything will start to become the norm in the US too. After-all, which CIO or even CEO wants to be unprepared in the face of someone who is far more so?
- Cloud by default: Many of the issues above are caused by legacy technology. 2010 saw the Cloud make huge in-roads into corporate IT infrastructures. 2011 by contrast is likely to see the fine tuning of legacy services to utilize Cloud in much deeper integrations. (Note I said legacy services, not applications; the latter will be phased out as a result) The most obvious advance we’ll see in 2011 is the use of Cloud or SaaS email archiving vendors, for the simple reasons that they are able to provide the same or better functionality as their LAN based aging-relatives, but without the requirement for on premise hardware or software.
So there you have it. 2011 in an email archiving nutshell. On Thursday this week, tune in for the same predictions on email security.
Happy New Year everyone.