Hello, and welcome to another Pro VIP Perspective. I'll tell you what's on my mind, and I hope after you've read this, you'll tell me what's on yours. Here’s what concerns me: White House scandals over email retrieval—or, rather, the inability to do so. Email discovery violations in the patent infringement suit between Qualcomm and Broadcom. Continued discussion about the changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) that went into effect over a year ago. In short, what's going on with email archiving?

In the last few months, I've spoken to quite a few vendors that supply email archiving solutions for Exchange Server. One question I always ask them is whether they think companies are doing enough overall to meet compliance regulations for email retention. The response has been that companies in the financial sector and any highly litigious field are probably using effective archiving methods, but outside that area only companies that have faced serious legal challenges—and therefore have seen firsthand the costs of failure—are likely to have implemented comprehensive solutions. Any way you look at it, corporate and governmental regulations are driving the need for email archiving.

Certainly we all know how important email is in modern business: email is mission critical; email is the way things get done; email is the de facto mode of business communication; email is the new black. But corporate email without an effective archiving solution is asking for trouble. I spoke to Chris Bradley, vice president of marketing and business development for MessageGate, a maker of email governance software. Regarding email archiving, Bradley said, "You've got to step up to it." He stressed the importance of knowing what's flowing through your system, and what's accumulating in the archive. And perhaps most important, you need to know how to work with the information in your archive—to retrieve what you need, when you need it.

Exchange Server 2007 includes enhanced journaling features that can help you with archiving, but in most cases journaling alone simply isn't enough. (You can read about Exchange 2007's journaling options in this month's lead article for Exchange & Outlook Pro VIP, "Get Compliant with Exchange Server 2007 Journaling.") An archiving system should include advanced search and retrieval functionality as well as the ability to intelligently archive—that is, move to the archive only what truly needs to be there. Exchange alone can't do that, and so we see a very active third-party market of email archiving vendors.

As you probably know, you can find archiving solutions in three primary forms: software solutions installed on your servers, appliances that plug in to your network, or hosted services. Each type has its benefits, of course, and you'll want to consider each in light of your organization's budget and needs before picking one. Software solutions currently seem the most prevalent, though with trends toward Software as a Service (SaaS), you'll find quite a few hosted options available as well. You can get more information on software solutions in the Windows IT Pro "Exchange Server Archiving Software" buyer's guide (February 2008).

As for both appliances and hosted service solutions, ease of implementation is one of the big selling points. Alan Elliot, vice president of sales and marketing for Mirapoint, said a chief reason to consider an appliance is total cost of ownership (TCO). Not only do you get simple, plug-in archiving, but you don’t need to spend much time maintaining your appliances. Mirapoint's RazorSafe uses inexpensive tape media for backup, and it's able to index the tape for search retrieval.

Email archiving seems a natural place to think of using a hosted service. You can avoid the cost and hassle of maintaining the storage media, and still have the search and availability of archived items that you would with onsite storage. Traditionally, SaaS solutions have appealed primarily to small-to-midsized businesses (SMBs), but that might be changing. In fact, as Paul D'Arcy, vice president of marketing for MessageOne, said, "It's one of the very few places where we see very large companies looking almost exclusively at Software as a Service options. A lot of people think of SaaS as a small business solution, but increasingly this is a place where IT organizations who have the capability to build and manage things themselves are deciding that the best approach is actually to look at a managed service option."

A primary reason, according to D'Arcy, for enterprise interest in hosted archiving is having a "third-party custodian" for archived data. If a company using a hosted solution is presented with an e-discovery request, the service provider should be able to perform the retrieval and testify to the validity of the archived data (if that becomes necessary), relieving your IT staff or CIO from that fun experience.

Matthew Smith, president and COO of hosted archiving provider LiveOffice, had similar thoughts. He described using a hosted solution as "self-insurance"—the security of knowing your company will be able to produce the required data in the event of an e-discovery request. He also felt that enterprise interest in hosted archiving is being driven by the increasing complexity of messaging systems. Rising demand for unified communications (UC) adds many other levels to already complex systems. IM, text messaging, mobile devices—the need to archive these communications is a new challenge that in most cases isn't yet being addressed.

Email archiving requirements aren't going away, and are likely only to get stricter with each new corporate—or government—scandal. So, if your company isn't archiving email, are you scared yet? What reasons would you cite for not having a solution in place? Certainly, budget concerns are a big factor with many organizations, but your budget will take a bigger hit in the event of unfortunate litigation. If your company does have an email archive in place, why don't you tell us about it? Are you using a third-party product that you'd recommend to your fellow Exchange admins? Have you had a good—or bad—experience with a hosted service provider? Send me an email message (bwinstead@windowsitpro.com) or take the discussion into the Pro VIP forum.

So now you know what's been on my mind. If you've got a topic that's on yours, let us know! Sheila and I are always on the lookout for article ideas for Exchange & Outlook Pro VIP. And if you've had an interesting troubleshooting experience with your Exchange organization, or you've solved a difficult messaging problem, why don't you write us an article proposal so you can share your genius with the community? We always enjoy working with new writers.