Evaluate the pros and cons of various email archiving solutions
Exchange 2010's Archiving
In your consideration of on-premises archiving systems, be sure to include Exchange 2010's built-in archiving features. Although these features might not be a perfect fit for every organization, they're priced into Exchange 2010 -- which might let you hit some of your archiving requirements with minimal additional expense.
Microsoft has made a lot of noise around its Software Plus Services (S+S) strategy, but Exchange 2010 andare a great example of how this strategy can pay off. You can host your mailboxes on your own Exchange servers and store archives on Exchange Online, or vice versa. You have a great deal of flexibility regarding how you manage and operate your mailboxes and where you store your data. Other archiving vendors can't yet match the tight integration between Exchange Online and on-premises Exchange. It's reasonable to expect a continuing movement to more tightly integrate these services (along with the other components of Office 365).
Keep in mind, though, that Exchange's archiving doesn't do everything that larger, more complex archiving products do. Its strengths lie in cost, integration (such as the fact that discovery searches are controlled by Exchange's Role Based Access Control -- RBAC - permissions feature), and ease of deployment. If you have complex discovery requirements, you might find that a third-party solution, whether on-premises or hosted, is a better fit for your needs.
As you evaluate whether a hosted or on-premises solution is best for your environment, you should ask numerous questions. The following five questions are especially important:
1. Why am I archiving? Understanding the business reasons that underlie your archiving requirements is critical to choosing the right combination of products and services. If there are specific laws or regulations that you must meet, you need to know what they are and what they require. Your organization's legal and business stakeholders are important sources to help answer this question.
2. How predictable is my deployment? Do you have good information about how much data you need to archive and how it's likely to grow in the future? Without these figures, you might lean toward a fixed-cost on-premises solution, but with better information you can make a more informed decision about the subscription or lease cost of a hosted solution.
3. Can I handle success? If your archiving system gets more use than expected or requires more administrative time than you plan for, will you have the resources to handle it?
4. How much do I trust my archiving vendor? The archiving marketplace has been undergoing consolidation for the past 2 or 3 years, and that trend appears set to continue. It's important that you're comfortable with your archiving vendor's history of product support, track record for support of new Exchange releases, and road map for supporting on-premises, hosted, and hybrid solutions.
5. What's my roadmap? In other words, what kind of data growth do you expect for all the data types you have to archive? Are there business changes, such as mergers, acquisitions, or entries into new business areas ahead that might change your archiving needs? What about Exchange upgrades and migrations? This question is a great opportunity for you to assess any other future factors that you think might influence your choice of product, hosting mode, or deployment schedule.
If you're not certain of the answers to any of these questions, consider how you could pilot archiving solutions to help provide more fodder for making an informed decision.
The Future of Archiving
The brisk competition between hosted and on-premises services in general is sure to continue. To decide between a hosted and on-premises solution for email archiving, you must understand your archiving requirements and how each type of solution might meet those requirements. As Microsoft begins work on the successor to Exchange 2010, and as archiving vendors continue to merge and consolidate, expect to see significant changes in this space within the next 2 or 3 years.