What's Your Best Option for Office 365 Email Archiving?
Thinking about a cloud migration? Or have you already adopted Office 365? O365 is widespread for a reason. It regroups so many functionalities that are accessible from anywhere under one umbrella, making our lives a bunch more convenient. Let’s dive into one of these functionalities in particular: archiving.
Microsoft Office 365 Email Archiving
They are lots of reasons to adopt Office 365 Email Archiving. It comes with almost every type of license at no extra cost. It’s bottomless for E3 and E5 users. Employees find it easy to access and use. For organizations not operating in a highly regulated space, O365 Email Archiving just might be a perfect solution for data retention.
But for all the others, a few challenges may arise. As a starter, O365's archive for Exchange Online is just a second mailbox attributed to each user. It’s extra space, not a legally defensible archive. Users can delete items from it. These items are lost forever which may lead to regulatory fines or spoliation sanctions.
To counter this, admins can enable a legal hold on every user’s mailbox, which is not a default setting and has to be set correctly every time a new user is created.
Also consider that data is normally retained because it might be needed in the future either for compliance, litigation, or simply productivity. But data isn’t easy to find within Office 365. It does have a complete eDiscovery tool, but it’s a separate solution only offered with E5 licenses. To use it, a collection must be performed beforehand with the very simple E3 search tool and then imported.
It’s easy to imagine that relevant information is often missing from those collections, that the process must be repeated multiple times before obtaining results, and that there's no guarantee that the needed information will be found.
What to Look for in a Third-Party Archive
Regulated and risk-averse organizations need to complement Office 365 with third-party solutions (as stated in this Osterman Research white paper), which are designed to fill in feature holes left by incumbents like Microsoft.
A third-party archive, in addition to acting as a backup for O365, can streamline compliance and drastically reduce risk. When searching for an archive, it’s important to look at the following 4 criteria:
1- Is it designed for long-term preservation?
As mentioned in this recent Forrester Research, one of the big challenges of long-term preservation is the obsolescence of file formats and technology (it’s a known fact for anyone who ever dealt with backup tapes). Make sure you’ll be able to consult the information you keep, or to easily convert it to another platform/format, for as long as you need to retain it.
2 - Can it ensure data integrity?
It’s important to have the ability to check that not only everything was archived, but also that no item has been tampered with.
3 - Is it secure?
You need to have control over who accesses archived information and which item was accessed. You also need to look for high availability from a user and corporate standpoint.
4 - Does it trace all actions taken against data?
The final step to ensure you’ve found the right archive is making sure every action performed against its content from viewing to destroying it is timestamped and auditable.
Other useful functions include performant search capabilities and scalability. Being able to easily change policies as needs evolve without risk of losing critical data isn’t bad either. Most of all, feeling confident that all your data is available when the time comes (and that it’s not held captive in a proprietary format) helps to get a good night’s sleep.
Microsoft’s O365 Archiving Solution can be the right one for you, but it’s important to properly weigh the pros and cons before making a decision that could create a huge technical debt over time.