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Forrester urges users to avoid overkill with email archiving
Everyone and their brother has an email archiving story to tell you these days, or so it seems. But Forrester Research analyst Jo Maitland told Forrester clients in a teleconference titled "Email Archiving Mistakes to Avoid" to keep things simple in their selection of a product and setting of policies.
Users need to begin with a strategy that addresses backup and archiving separately (apparently not everyone in the storage industry read Mr W. Backup's definitive "Backups are not Archives" article a couple years ago…). Then, they should take into account their requirements for the deployment - whether it will be for end user restore/Exchange optimization, or for legal discovery.
According to Maitland, this is the most crucial step in determining which product will work best in a given environment, and one not everyone clearly understands. This isn't helped by an overcrowded market with vendors trying to shout over each other with ever-more-complex features, but Maitland boiled it down to a few key things. An archive for e-Discovery should mark data for legal hold and notify an administrator when new content hits an existing search; those seeking an archive for legal discovery should also try to look for one that covers more data types than just email.
For email optimization and end user restore, the product should allow access to emails via a Web browser, automatically copy messages to the archive and delete them from primary storage (too many stub files can still clog up the mail server), and allow simple retrieval back to the inbox.
The two purposes for an archive - eDiscovery and end user restore - can be mutually exclusive, Maitland said.
Once the requirements are determined, Maitland advised that policies be set - and once again, kept as simple as possible. "Nirvana policies are not practical," she said. If policies are too strict or too lax, she pointed out, "everybody ignores the policy and finds underground ways of keeping their data anyway." A 30-day deletion policy, moreover, "flies in the face of 10 years of best practices in records management," and can still expose a company to risk when it needs some data to defend itself. But keeping data forever quickly overwhelms today's search and indexing tools.
While policy-setting is still an area of unavoidable complexity, Maitland also emphasized that users won't necessarily need all the features in every archiving and e-Discovery product. WORM, for example "is overkill for most things." Instead, if a company really needs WORM for a subset of data, she advocated a tiered strategy where only the data that really needs WORM protection is migrated and stored on a WORM system.
So, yes, with this type of tiered approach, it means ongoing management, something Maitland said admins often overlook when planning an archiving strategy. "With archiving today it can't be just plug it in and forget it," Maitland said. "Email archiving is a strategic project, not just a quick fix to manage performance or service levels - it aims to manage information for the long term."
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