Email Archiving Appliance

When many people think about email archiving, they image an email archiving appliance – A dedicated hardware solution that is installed on-premises on which emails are archived directly from the mail server or through a mail client such as Outlook.

While an email archiving appliance was once the go-to solution for email arching, times have changed and there are now several email archiving solutions available. It pays to evaluate each option to decide which is most suitable and best meets the needs of your organization.

Email Archiving Options

There are four options available for archiving email to meet your compliance obligations:

  • A dedicated, physical email archiving appliance or server
  • Email archiving software
  • A cloud-based email archiving service
  • A hybrid solution combining two or more of the above

Advantages and Disadvantages of an Email Archiving Appliance

An email archiving appliance is one of the easiest email archiving options. You purchase a physical appliance which acts as a standalone device for email archiving and it is housed alongside your servers on-premises. The sole purpose of the appliance is archiving emails. With an email archiving appliance there is a one-time cost to buy the appliance, along with ongoing maintenance costs. Physical email archiving appliances are robust devices, but backups are still required in case of appliance failure. You would therefore need to also factor in backup storage costs.

An alternative solution is to use a virtual appliance. A virtual appliance is provided as a purpose-built virtual solution that is pre-configured and ready to deploy in your virtual environment, on VMware or HyperV for instance. Both email archiving appliance options are pre-configured and ready to be deployed. Getting set up will take around an hour, and you can usually get everything configured in a morning.

Physical and virtual appliances are easy to use and deploy, easy to secure, and will give you peace of mind as your essential email data will be stored in-house. If ever there is a problem, you will have easy access to the appliance. Security is straightforward, as the devices can be configured to only be accessible from within your organization’s network and will be protected by your organization’s firewall.

Email Archiving Software Solutions

Email archiving software is the oldest solution. The software is either supplied on a disk or it can be downloaded from the internet. There will be an initial purchase cost for the solution, and you will need to purchase licenses for each user, as you would with an operating system or database.

You will also need the hardware on which to install the solution and house your archive. You will need a database to use for your archive and web server software such as Microsoft IIS. You should ensure that these additional costs are factored in when making your decision about the best solution to use. As is the case with an appliance, you will be responsible for maintaining the hardware on which the software is installed. You will also need to patch the software periodically and backup your archive.

Many businesses use email archiving software as a hybrid deployment, with the software used to store the archive on-premises, with the backup saved to the cloud. There may be a cost advantage over an email archiving appliance, although that will depend on how many users you have. Fewer users tend to make email archiving software a better choice than an appliance as you can just pay for the number of users and do not need to pay for storage capacity that you are not yet using.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Cloud-Based Email Archiving

Cloud email archiving is fast becoming the norm. With a cloud-based archive, all archiving takes place in the cloud and the solution is provided as a service. Your service provider will provide the software, databases, and cloud storage and will ensure the archive is secured and backed up. There will be no maintenance requirements or associated costs with a cloud-based archiving solution.

Cloud-based archiving is the simplest solution and there is little in the way of upfront costs. You just pay for the number of users as a monthly expense. It is a worry-free service as everything is provided for you. Set up is a quick and easy process that typically takes well under an hour. Cloud-based archiving can be more cost effective than an email archiving appliance or software solution, especially for small to medium sized organizations.

Security may be a concern, as you will be storing your archive in the cloud – on somebody else’s servers. While there are legitimate worries about storing data in the cloud, cloud-based email archiving is provided as a service, and the service provider will ensure that your archive is secured, email data are encrypted, and the archive is backed up automatically and is always available, even if your email service is down. With cloud-based email archiving, security is never a concern.


Do I need an email archive if I backup email?

An archive and a backup are not the same. Archives are used for long term email storage and can be easily searched. Backups are used to restore entire mailboxes in the event of disaster, such as a ransomware attack or data corruption event. Backups cannot easily be searched so finding lost emails or producing emails for eDiscovery and audits is very time-consuming and expensive without an email archive.

Is it easy to change email archiving service providers?

Some email archiving solution providers use proprietary data formats for their archives, which can make it difficult to change provider. It is important to check the options available for exporting your archive and to ensure the solution allows exports in a range of common data formats to avoid vendor lock-in and to make any future migrations to other solution providers straightforward.

Is a business associate agreement required from an email archiving service provider?

If you use a software-as-a-service solution and you archive emails that contain ePHI, you will need to enter into a business associate agreement with the email archiving service provider as their solution will come into contact with ePHI. A BAA is required even if the service provider claims not access users’ archives.

Do email archives need to be encrypted?

Encryption is an addressable requirement of HIPAA, which means it must be considered but it is not mandatory. It is acceptable to implement alternative measures in place of encryption, provided they provide an equivalent level of protection to encryption. The decision not to encrypt, and the alternatives used, must be documented.

How long do emails need to be retained?

There are different retention periods for different types of data, ranging from 1 year for certain data types to 6 years for HIPAA policies and procedures, and some emails may need to be retained indefinitely. You should seek legal advice on federal and state data retention requirements. Email archiving solutions can then be used to automate the retention and deletion of email data.

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