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Mail archiving versus email backup

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Email and instant messaging have become a vital part of everyday life and business workings, and because organisations are so reliant on email, without the ability to communicate via these channels productivity can often grind to a halt. Due to the critical importance to business of email and messaging, both backup and archiving are vital in ensuring business continuity, disaster recovery and legal regulatory compliance.

Martin Tassev, Managing Director of LOOPHOLD Security Distribution (image: Loophold)

“Email storage and management have become important issues in the business space. Most people now understand that having a backup of data such as emails is desirable in case of technology failure, however because a large proportion of business communication takes place via this medium, archiving also becomes necessary to store data for legal purposes. Email backup and email archiving are not the same thing, and are in fact two separate technologies, both of which are necessary in today’s business world,” says Paul Lawrence, Regional Sales Director – UK, Nordics & MEA at Barracuda Networks Limited.

Backup is designed to restore and index a snapshot of data at a certain point in time, by creating a copy of the primary data source. Email backup can happen both at the individual message level and the server level, both of which are important for disaster recovery. Message-level backup stores mail messages from each user for fast restoration of messages that have been corrupted or accidentally deleted. Email server backup is needed to restore an organisation’s email server in the event that the server is corrupted or destroyed, but in order to do this a full backup must be available of the entire email server including software, configuration and the database.

“However, backup is a snapshot of a specific moment, which means that all emails sent and received after that certain point in time will not be backed up in that snapshot, and emails that are not backed up can be deleted from the email server, which means they could be lost forever. This means that backup alone, while important for disaster recovery, does not meet organisational compliance objectives to legislation such as the Electronic Communications and Transactions (ECT) Act,” says Martin Tassev, Managing Director of LOOPHOLD Security Distribution.

Archiving, on the other hand, is designed to save data for an extended period of time and index it for easy search and retrieval. An archiving solution ensures that every single email that is sent or received is captured and stored for retrieval should this be necessary. This is vital not only for compliance and legal purposes, is important not only to ensure availability of messaging data, but also from a continuity perspective, so that in the event of an individual employee leaving, previous email transactions can easily be searched and retrieved.

“The indexing and search functionality of archiving makes specific data far easier to find, which makes searching in the event of a dispute a far simpler process. This is particularly important for organisations in sectors such as financial services, which are legally obligated to keep a copy of all transactions that take place over email. Properly archived message data is also vital for the process of e-discovery, since email has become so much a part of our lives that the majority of litigation cases now require emails to be presented as evidence,” says Tassev.

The core functionality of email archiving is to index and preserve electronic communications to enforce retention policies according to regulatory compliance. However, it also protects entire organisations’ email and messaging data from operational failure, disk failure and disaster and improves email server performance at the same time by offloading emails from the server into the archiving system, storing only one copy should an email have been sent to multiple people, where users can access them seamlessly and easily.

“In order for organisations to attain comprehensive email storage and management that meets the needs of the business as well as the compliance requirements of a variety of legislation, it is vital to implement a combination of message archiving and message backup. These two complementary technologies work together to ensure that messages, which have become an integral part of organisational communication, are retained for legal purposes and for restoration should users require it,” Lawrence concludes.

Martin Tassev, Managing Director of LOOPHOLD Security Distribution

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