Hassles of email management
The volume of email data a business generates is humongous. This can cause problems of storage optimization and also legal compliance if you are planning to become or already are a certified business (ISO and other industry standards). For audits, you need to furbish email trails and past emails. In order to comply with business regulations, employers tend to seek out solutions which will save their emails systematically, given that the emails can be accessed swiftly whenever needed. The two solutions for this snafu are email archives and email backups.
However, people often are confused over these two, some even mistake it to mean the same thing. Due to a lack of clarity, businesses tend to adopt one over the other and then end up regretting their choice. This blog sheds light on email archiving, email backups, the difference between the two, and the advantages of archiving emails over email backups.
Basics of email backups and email archives
What are email backups?
An email backup is a snapshot of your entire email data up to a certain point in time. Email backups record virtually all data in the email databases. When you restore from an email backup, you aren’t adding to the current database, but replacing it. This means if there were emails that are sent or received post taking a backup process are lost when the email backup is restored.
Also, unlike email archives, email backups are not incremental; every time you take a new backup, the new snapshot replaces the old one. Within the email solution, there can only exist one snapshot at a time. Of course, you can store them externally, and date them for creating versions, but that is an additional, manual overhead.
Email backups are critical in case your email solution gets corrupted and you need to retrieve ‘clean’ emails again. But bear in mind, your email backup will fully replace the current database. For the sake of 10-12 corrupted emails, you will have to restore the entire database to an older point in time. Also, if that backup was taken before these corrupted / accidentally emails came into the picture, these emails are lost forever.
What are email archives?
An email archive is like a library, containing data both new and old, accessible at any time you desire. Email archives offer a long-term storage for your emails, with quick and efficient access to them whenever you need them.
Archived emails are read-only: you can read them but not edit or update them.
Email archives are incremental, meaning new emails are added to the old emails in an archive. If specific emails are corrupted or lost, they can be retrieved individually, without needing to replace the entire email database.
Email archiving also provides faster retrieval. Because emails within an email archive are indexed, you can search for them using keywords.
Differences between email archives and email backups
Freeing up your mailbox quotas
Email archiving helps you save space on your mailbox. You can configure your email archiving solution such that successfully archived emails are automatically deleted from your real-time mailbox, thus keeping your mailbox clean and uncluttered.
With email backups, however, you are just creating a snapshot of the email system at that instant. The actual emails aren’t moved, and remain in your mailbox. There are no storage benefits to email backups.
Helping deal with PST files
PST files are used to sync emails from your mailbox to your local storage. This can happen because your mailbox quota is filled up or you need a local copy of your emails.
But PST files are volatile. They can be corrupted or lost. Some Junk Cleaner software may treat PST files as ‘unnecessary junk’ and wipe them off. Besides, they take up a lot of space.
Email archiving assists with bypassing the need for PST files. Because email archives are stored on a central database, it subverts the need for local storage of emails, since you can access past emails from the archive directly. Also, because archived emails can be automatically deleted, mailbox quotas don’t fill up all that often.
An email backup software can independently store PST files. However, since it does not move / delete the actual emails in your database, the mailbox quota remains at risk of being at-capacity all the time.
De-dupes and compressions
Both email archiving and email backups lend their hand in saving the size of the actual emails. Emails are compressed, duplicate emails are deleted.
This saves space on the mailbox in real-time. However, email archives once again take the winning points with their ability to offload archived emails from the email server.
Secure and long-term email retention
Email backups get stored not as complete emails, but as a snapshot of the overall email database. You cannot individually access emails from an email backup.
However, email archiving solutions store emails in their most complete and secure form. Archived emails, like we discussed, are read-only, safe from tampering (intentional or accidental). Good email archiving solutions will also store these emails in an encrypted way, blocking unauthorized access.
Also, emails can be configured to drop straight into the archive when they’re received or sent and are not convoluted into another format.
The best quality of an email archive is their ability to store emails for longer durations, several years even. On the other hand, email backups are basically the answer to immediate disaster recovery, by allowing the user to revert back to an earlier state.
Because email has become the primary mode of communication, both inter-organization and between organizations, emails can come under scrutiny during business audits and legal compliance tests.
Email archives provide access to older data, maintaining the email trails intact, which can be provided quickly upon request.
One of the factors considered during these regulatory audits is the integrity of the stored data. Instant archival allows for email archives to be current and tamper-proof. However, since email backups are scheduled, we cannot say with full certainty that the data in email backups is fully secure and compliance-ready. Even if you schedule daily backups, there are chances of emails getting lost or corrupted in the timeframe between two backups. Such emails are, for all intents and purposes, lost forever. An email backup cannot be trusted for compliance.
Do you need to choose one over the other?
Well, no. Email archiving and email backups are two solutions for email management each with a different purpose.
Backups are designed towards the disaster recovery scenario, while an email archiving solution ensures that your business email data is searchable, securely stored, and made available promptly as needed.
However, backing up your email server is no substitute whatsoever for an orderly email archiving policy.
Both email backups and archives are key aspects of an IT security strategy. You may favor one more than the other, but they work best in tandem. If you need help with email archiving or backup, you can contact our team at Logix. More details on our email archiving solution are enlisted on our email archival service page.
Reading resources: email archiving vs email deletion.