Moving Email to the Cloud? What About Your Archives? (Part 1)

By Joe Fenner

Many of our clients are moving (or are planning to move) to cloud-based email solutions like Microsoft Exchange Online, often as part of a larger Office 365 implementation. And many of these firms – particularly those in financial services and insurance – have existing systems in place for email archiving.

As part of any email migration effort, you need to define your approach for addressing your email archiving needs. Does moving email to the cloud mean you should change to how you archive email today? And if so, what about your historical archives?

Key Considerations for Email Archiving

For clients that are weighing their options, we recommend they consider the following:

  • The email environment’s archiving capabilities. What are the capabilities the cloud-based email environment provides for archiving? How configurable is it? Does the pricing model work for your organization?
  • Access requirements. Do your users need to have frequent/real-time access to archived info? Or is it strictly for compliance/regulatory retention purposes, and users will rarely access archived email?
  • Storage requirements. Do you have any restrictions for where your email archives can be stored? Does the data need to reside in a particular country or jurisdiction?
  • Security requirements. What encryption and other data protection capabilities are provided? What contractual terms and provisions does the solution provider offer for ensuring information security? Does it align with your organization’s information security standards?
  • Legal hold and e-discovery requirements. What tools does the hosted archive provide for ensuring preservation (suspending scheduled disposition) for content that is under legal hold? Are there tools provided for performing e-discovery? Is the archive accessible to any e-discovery tools or services you may already be using?

The answers to these questions will inform your decision on how to address archiving. But when digging into these considerations, many firms find that they may need to think differently about their options for day-forward archiving and their options for the historical archives they may have accumulated over the past 5 to 10 years or more.

For day-forward archiving (after migration to cloud email), most firms have a strong preference to use the archive capabilities of their new cloud-based email solution if at all possible. While this seems like common sense, many firms are still not comfortable with the capabilities and security of the solution for archiving for compliance purposes. If they are not, the tendency is to keep their existing archive solutions in place for archiving new email volumes.

For the historical archives (predating the migration to cloud email), there are more options to consider:

  • Move your entire archive volume to the cloud-based email solution? Sounds good, but such large-scale migrations are costly.
  • Maintain your existing solution until all of the content within it expires and is no longer under legal hold and then decommission it? Makes sense, but prepare to battle for funding for maintenance, support, and upgrades for a platform you’d like to decommission, but can’t because of ongoing legal holds.
  • Migrate the archive to a cheaper alternative, either on premises or in the cloud? Perhaps less expensive in the long run if the content must be maintained for many years, but again, there are one-time migration costs to content with.

For our clients, this is where business case estimates are critical. A lot of it has to do with whether your existing archive platforms are supporting other use cases (e.g. email journaling for executives or for broker/dealer communications, for example) and what your appetite is to commit to ongoing support vs. stepping up to a full transition now.

For more on this topic, refer back to James Watson’s video: Legacy Email Archives

And stay tuned for Part 2 of this post, in which I’ll address the policy and change management aspects of making the transition on-premises environments to cloud-based solutions for email archiving.

Rich Medina
Joe Fenner
I’m VP of Consulting. I oversee Doculabs’ delivery team and consulting practice, as well as leading numerous client engagements.