Email Archiving

This article gives an introduction to email archiving, explores why email archiving solutions might be required, what are the different models of email archiving solutions, how the emails are classified, stored and searched in such email archival systems.

What is Email Archiving?

Email archiving is a process of storing the emails sent from and received by all the employees of an organization either in full or part for a certain duration as determined by the company policies in an easily search-able format which is indexed via various sub-categories and policies to search for and access older emails and reduce the overall storage space and cost required to storing and maintaining emails in an organization.

Why is an Email Archiving required?

Emails are business records. A lot of information, commitments, documents etc. are exchanged over email. People very often search for older emails, for a variety of reasons. So, it is better to store them in a centralized storage area so that employees, auditors and anyone else can access them at any point of time. The employees would also require to search their entire archives to find a particular email, which the archiving solutions enable them to.

Emails are also evidence, confirmation records and are required for various compliance procedures. Email archiving solutions are also required for disaster recovery, as the mails are stored outside the primary and secondary email servers.

Models of Email Archiving solutions:

Email archiving solutions come in all forms including software solutions, appliance based solutions, virtual appliances, Software as a Service model, outsourced rental model (Service providers) etc.

Email Classification:

It’s easier to recover important emails, if they are classified properly before storage. Manual classification requires the users to manually mark every message to a particular category as they know best which category the emails belong to. But this makes it quite tedious for the users. So, some vendors enable the automated classification system by the email archiving solutions.

The messages are evaluated over a number of criteria to determine the best possible category. The evaluation parameters include senders and recipients, departments, incoming/outgoing mail, identifying important keywords like account numbers to classified in the accounting folders, training the system to identify intellectual property with IP samples and categorizing those messages accordingly etc. There is a risk of wrong classification with automated classification, but it reduces a lot of manual labour.

In addition most of the archiving solutions filter out emails that are not to be stored – like personal email, company broadcast messages/newsletters for individual employees, etc.


Emails are stored in the appliances/servers or separate storage array disks – many archiving solutions offload the older messages to less expensive storage. The archiving solutions take advantage of the fact that most of the email systems can send a copy of every email sent or received to a determined network location to store and archive them. Generally the email archiving solutions can handle terabytes of data.

The archiving solutions migrate content from email servers to archival storage and replaces messages with stubs. This also eliminates the impact of storage quotas allocated to individual users. Some of them even allow users to migrate the .pst and .nsf mails to the archival solutions hence re-gaining the control of information contained in them.

The email archiving solutions help reduce storage costs by consolidating single instance messages – they identify duplicate messages and create pointers to point them to the already stored messages instead of storing the multiple copies of same messages. Some vendors offer a single interface to manage both file and email archives. Some of them even compress the files before storing them.


Most of the archiving solutions allow users to search for certain keywords in all their previous mails as they incorporate full text search engines. Moreover, some of them even provide permission based search policies – allowing limited access to employees (searching their own mails) but full access to auditors etc.

Some vendors incorporate open source search technology which offers a standard method of handling queries (Usage of common functions and formats like AND, OR etc).

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