Email backup or email archiving, which do you need?

If you’re asking yourself whether you need an email backup or email archiving system (or you’re being asked to justify the expenditure) there’s a really simple answer: you need both, for different reasons. It’s not unusual to find people using these terms interchangeably, but they are in fact different solutions.

Email backup and email archiving work together in tandem to offer the best all-encompassing solution for preserving and protecting business-critical data.

Disaster recovery vs legal preservation

In a nutshell, email backup is a short- to medium-term solution that enables the quick recovery of emails in the event of data loss, whether that is because of accidental deletion, a ransomware attack, or even sabotage. Simply put, it’s possible to select a time period and restore a copy of any email or string of emails from that time.

Email archiving, on the other hand, enables rapid access to years if not decades of business data (including email files, attachments and calendars) if required – which it might be, in the event of an audit, HR investigation, or even legal action. Email archiving is actually required by law in regulated industries such as in healthcare or financial services, because it offers a tamper-proof solution, but in fact this security aspect protects businesses in unregulated sectors too (for example, a tribunal may well dismiss email evidence if it is not proven to be from a secure archive).

Boiled down to absolute basics, you could say that email backup is purely for the purposes of disaster recovery, while email archiving is about legal preservation.

Considering server and helpdesk workload

From a technical point of view, there are a number of more specific distinctions between email backup and email archiving, too. They can impact not only the workload of the server, but the workload of the IT team, too.

  • Email backups do nothing to eliminate mailbox quotas – because they are temporary copies of a snapshot of data – whereas an email archiving solution can enable automatic deletion of emails from the server’s mailboxes, provided that they have been archived successfully. This of course frees up space on the server and within the user’s mailbox.
  • Commonly used to create local copies of a user’s emails when their mailbox quota is exceeded, PST files are inherently inefficient and easily damaged – not to mention the fact they could be lost, being stored across a variety of different locations, are not tamper-proof, and have no full-text search function. An online email archive eliminates the need for PST files for the reasons mentioned above, whereas email backups can’t fully do the same.
  • Email archiving and email backups can both offer de-duplication and compression, which means less storage space is used. Crucially however, unlike email backup systems, email archiving enables the deletion of archived files from the server, which reduces storage requirement significantly.
  • By deleting emails from the server after successful archiving, the process of backups – and restore routines, should they become necessary – is accelerated. This both speeds up critical processes and reduces system downtime in the event of a DR situation.
  • The completeness of an email archive is assured by the use of journaling – archiving emails as soon as they are sent from or received by the email server. Backups are simply a snapshot of a user’s mailbox in its current state, which means it’s more likely that data will be missing through user activity.
  • Compliance requirements – such as GDPR – are often more fully covered by email archiving solutions than backup software, because of the greater certainty over the integrity of the data.
  • Although email backup solutions can help with eDiscovery, it’s worth bearing in mind that email archiving usually offers a superior search function with full-text indexing – and systems are more directly accessible to users, without having to tie up the time of an IT administrator.
  • Similarly, with direct access to the email archive, users can recover lost emails themselves rather than having to ask the IT administrator to restore a backup for them.

So the question isn’t so much whether you need email backups or email archiving, but how to build an integrated system with both systems – for a short-term and a long-term retrieval solution that optimally protects business data.

To find out more about combining email archiving and email backup for best business protection, get in touch with our friendly team today.