Email Archiving, Backup and Journaling: What is the Right Strategy to Secure Email Data?

Updated: Jan 11, 2021

With every email exchange, more information is collected in the enterprise mail store, increasing the need to secure corporate email data.

The Radicati Group, an international technology market research firm, predicts that by 2019, business emails will account for 128.8 billion mails sent and received per day.

Administrators of large and small organisations often need to dig up and restore email data. This information can be useful as a reference for business purposes or during possible future legal investigations.

In many countries, retaining this information has become mandatory by law.

Many unpredictable circumstances can lead to losing important and crucial email data unless there is an efficient email back-up solution or system in place – specifically, a comprehensive email archiving solutions.

Let’s take a look at some backup horror stories

Scenario A: You’re just back from vacation, full of energy and ready to get to work…but a few hours later an unfortunate incident leads to a small office fire…luckily the office sprinklers put it out. However in the process, your laptop is now wet and the data on it (including all downloaded mail) is inaccessible…lost.

Scenario B: A deadly virus infects computer network and servers. This corrupts the email back-up, throwing everyone out of gear and disrupting the work flow.

There are other reasons why mails are no longer in the user’s mailbox. Some of them are:

  1. When a user accidentally deletes a mail

  2. When a retention policy removes older data

Choosing the right email backup and archive strategy for email backup and restore can make an IT team more productive as well as help in increasing the general productivity of an organization by minimizing disruption.

The rapid adoption of digital mechanisms to drive business processes has resulted in unexpected growth of data in organisations. This makes it necessary to find a secure email data backup solution to improve capacity, cost and efficiency.

So, what is email encryption and why we need it? We have summarized various approaches to secure email data along with the best fits and drawbacks when restoring older or lost mail.

Mail Server Backup

One of the most commonly used email archiving solutions – typically the system admins configure scheduled backup of the mail server setup including the mail storage.

This automatic email archiving data backup happens at a scheduled time (daily or weekly) and contains a snapshot of all the email data present on the server at that moment.

Depending on the storage availability and email retention policies, an organization may maintain more than one backup.

Since the backup is taken incrementally, the user’s data store includes the state of the user’s mailbox at the time of the backup.

Access to the email backup is provided only to the system administrators through email archiving software.

Best fit for:

  1. Server backups are a must to get your business up and running if disaster strikes.

Drawbacks when restoring deleted mails:

  1. Administrators schedule mail server backups at intervals, and not continuously. Therefore a backup will not contain copies of mails which were sent / received and deleted between two backups.

  2. Restoring email data from older backups is a cumbersome and lengthy process.

Endpoint Data Backup

An organization may deploy a central backup of all endpoint devices or ask each individual user to make a back-up of their individual computers.

The email endpoint data backup occurs at a planned time and contains a snapshot of the mails on the desktop at the time of the backup.

The organisation may maintain single or multiple backups, depending on the email retention policies and storage availability.

The data backed up will contain the state of the user’s mailbox on the endpoint (such as a desktop) at the time of the backup.

Organizations may choose to backup the endpoint data of only critical users.

Depending on the policies of the organisations, administrators alone retain access to the backup or they can provide access to end users.

Best fit for:

  1. Endpoint data backups are good to get your critical users up and running in case of loss or failure of their respective endpoint devices.

Drawbacks when used to restore deleted mails:

  1. Since mail server backups are taken at planned intervals, and not continuously, a backup will not include mails which were exchanged and which got deleted between two backups.

  2. If the endpoints are not online, the data backups cannot be executed and may lead to data inconsistency.

Enterprise Email Archiving

The enterprise email archiving feature moves mails from primary email folders such as an Inbox to a separate archive folder.

Typically a cheaper mail storage maintains the archive folder, which is separate from the primary mail storage. However, both are part of the mail server setup.

The movement of mail from the primary email folders to the archive folder can be manual or automatic based on the company’s enterprise data backup strategy.

. One example of automatic mail movement would be to configure auto archiving of mail older than ‘n’ days.

Enterprise Email archiving is not really a backup as it is an alternate location for the older or less important mail.

Often end users possess the access to the mail backup or in this case, their respective archive folders.

This may result in the manipulation or deletion of mail. Only the legal hold of an account, can prevent the manipulation of the corresponding archive folder.

Best fit for:

  1. Archive folders are good enterprise backup strategy solutions to save on cost of email storage and improve server performance in order to secure email archiving data.

Drawbacks when used to restore deleted mails:

  1. As mentioned, archive folders cannot count as backups unless there is a legal hold on the mailbox.

What is email archiving?

Email journaling means capturing an electronic message while it is in transit. It may or may not encrypted. A copy of every email is mailed to a restricted Journal Mailbox. It is an easy communication retention tool that can help businesses meet regulatory or compliance requirements.

Email Journaling on a Secondary Storage

An email system administrator can configure the primary server to journal a copy of every incoming and outgoing mail of selected users to a secondary store.

An email journaling service saves a copy before it hits the user’s mailbox maintaining the integrity of the data. The secondary store can be a third party backup or archival solution.

The administrator can configure email journaling for selected or all users of a domain. With backup for all incoming and outgoing mails.

Journaling creates an additive backup, collecting new data without disturbing the previous data backup.

Access to the backup depends on the capability of the email journaling service used to archive the data.

Some email archiving services make the data available only to admins. Others provide a read-only access to the end users in addition to the admin access.

Best fit for:

  1. Email archiving solutions which collect data using the journal feature are ideal for compliance requirements.

  2. Archiving creates a copy of every mail which is present at a separate location. Therefore administrators can configure the primary mail store to auto-delete older mail. This reduces the storage requirement on the primary server and improves its performance.

  3. Since the data store is tamper proof, a solution providing self-service portals can be used by end users to restore lost mail or entire mail boxes.

Drawbacks when used to restore deleted mails:

  1. Requests for restoring mail prior to starting the email journaling can be serviced only if the solution allows historical data upload.

  2. Depending on the email archiving service in question, restoring or retrieving entire folders may be difficult.

Conclusion: Of Email Archiving, Email Backup Solution and Journaling, Which One Should Be Chosen to secure email data?

Journaling email to a secondary email archiving solution, with affordable and durable data storage and a self-service portal for end users seems like the best solution for backup, restoration and to secure email data.

Once you establish that email archival is the most optimal solution, then you may want to read this post on How to choose between In-premise, dedicated-on-cloud or a SaaS-on-cloud for archiving of email. See why Vaultastic is an ideal fit for archiving emails to the cloud from any primary email platform.

Want an in-depth discussion? Our archival experts are ready to talk to you, one on one to suggest archival best practices, to help you manage email storage better, learn how to make use of all the archived business email for business intelligence and stay ready for regulation compliance. Schedule a call today.

Ready to go to the next step? We suggest you watch a video of how email archiving works, see a live demo of the product (no sign up required) and then sign up for a no obligation free 30 day live trial.

Want to just keep updated with the latest in Email Archival? Watch recordings of email archiving webinars to understand in depth how enterprise email archiving can benefit you. Most of our webinars are well researched stories about live customer use cases, as narrated by the customer and an AWS team member Live.

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