In Email Archiving, Don't Forget About the Exit Strategy

Email-archive-ediscovery-ESIAs organizations face hefty price tags to preserve, manage, collect and review email in litigation, many have moved to try to lessen the load by signing up for email archiving.  For those of you unfamiliar with email archiving, the concept is simple — technology attached to the organization’s email system keeps a copy of every incoming and outgoing message for each user on the system.

If an organization has 10,000 employees, every single email coming and going from each of those 10,000 employees is collected every single day, regardless of whether the content is spam (and why wouldn’t we want to keep all those male enhancement offers?), personal (want to have lunch tomorrow?  Where? When?  I’m leaving now, meet you there. . .) or key to the business of the organization (We agree to accept a 2 cent increase on the cost of widgets beginning October 1st.).

Okay, so I admit I have my doubts as to whether such a technology is really worth the money (and email archives are not cheap) considering that an organization is required to save, on average, less than 1/10th of 1% of the email it actually captures in an email archive to meet its preservation obligations.  Truth be told there are not a lot of other good alternatives out there for organizations to use to preserve email under e-discovery rules, and email does typically represent around 65% of the ESI in an organization.  Journaling can be useful in limited circumstances, but for now archiving is the most useful tool for large organizations that need one central location to mine for e-discovery.

But this post is about the backend of the archive — the technology that actually stores the email.  And though it’s taken me three paragraphs to get here, here’s the point — think about what will happen when you have to take this archive down before you put it up. What does that mean?  It means think about the type of storage you are building your archive on, and how you can pull the email out to move to a new system if you want to.

Different types of storage have varying costs — IT folks sometimes refer to it as tiered storage — and that’s part of it.  Different types of storage have better functionality and therefore cost more.  One example is the difference between a standard server and an Exchange server (the server your email runs off of if you are on Microsoft Outlook).  An Exchange server is much more sophisticated and costs alot, so adding new Exchange servers just to store your email doesn’t make much sense.  But some technologies today are just big black boxes — ESI goes in, but it doesn’t come out.  At least not easily.

Cloud based archives are all the rage now too, and similar issues exist — make sure if you decide to switch to another carrier, that pulling your email out is possible in terms of compatible formats.  You’ll also want to understand the associated costs in case the tool that IT selected doesn’t end up to be what legal wants or needs.  This is another example of how legal and IT need to be collaborating when it comes to e-discovery.

So make sure when you ask IT to put up that email archive, that you know how you’ll be able to get your ESI out 1) for production in litigation, and 2) if you ever decide to shut it down.  Because chances are good you’ll have existing legal holds when you shut it down, and if you can’t get the data out, you’ll keep paying for that archive until those holds are released or you can afford another exit strategy.

There are 2 comments so far

  • 6 years ago · Reply

    Kelly, you raise some interesting points and people really do need to think about their overall strategy, especially when it’s tied to a public cloud offering. However, I think you are selling email archive technology a little bit short.

    The archive retains only what you want to retain. In fact, keeping a copy of every single message is generally referred to as “journaling” and is a task performed by the email server and not by the archive. The archive can then keep every message, but it does not have to do so.

    Many of our clients use Email Archiving / Management Systems very effectively to actually reduce the amount of email that they are keeping, because they can enforce a policy. For example, they might retain messages for only 90 days (or 6 months or 6 years); or only messages moved to specific folders; etc. They also enable companies to get rid of those pesky PST (and NSF) files.

    In addition, good archives will de-duplicate messages and make them easy to find for litigation and other purposes.

    • Kelly Twigger Author
      6 years ago · Reply

      Jim, thanks for your comment. You raise valid points, and I agree that if a client implements an effective email management policy with retention in the archive and eliminates .pst or .nsf files so that the archive is the only location where email is stored, the technology can have great value. If a more advanced system is in place that provides functionality like de-duplication (although that would have to be defined as there are so many ways to define de-dup today) it may save the client more in e-discovery and have a better ROI.

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