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Group Review

7 top tools for email archiving

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Between disaster recovery, compliance with legislative requirements and the need to meet e-discovery demands, enterprises should have some level of email archiving in place. In addition, companies may need to archive other files, including Office documents, SharePoint, instant messaging, blogs and other social media.

The tricky part is that disaster recovery, compliance and e-discovery all have different requirements and functions. Disaster recovery focuses on retrieving the latest version of a document. Compliance can mean enforcing policies on email content or complying with standards for keeping track of all documents that may have sensitive information. E-discovery involves responding to legal request for all documents pertaining to a particular topic.

Depending on your priorities, some key features to look for in an archiving product are search capabilities, auditing functions, deduplication, expandability, breadth of applications supported and ease of setup.

Luckily or unluckily for enterprise IT execs, there are dozens of email archiving products out there. This reflects the wide variety of reasons to archive and the difficulty in creating a system that will work well for all sizes of companies. We invited the top 30 vendors to participate and half said yes.

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In Part 1 of this two part review, we analyse seven leading products: Barracuda Message Archiver 450, Deepinvent MailStore, GFI MailArchiver 6, Jatheon PnC 2.11, MetaLogix PAM 4.2.21, RedGate Exchange Server Archiver 3.0 and Symantec Enterprise Vault 9.0. In Part II, we will look at another batch of seven products.

Testing was done with a SuperMicro dual six-core Xeon server with 32GB RAM, 8x320GB drives in RAID 5 and 4Gbps Fibre Channel connected to a Compellent Storage Center. The server was running Exchange 2007 on Windows 2008 R2. We installed each software product on the server along with required additional pieces such as the SQL Server (which might normally run on a separate server).

We went through the process of setting up archiving, looking at what's necessary in the way of creating additional accounts or services, or whatever else might be necessary to enable the functions, then archiving some test mailboxes and looking at the actual ability to restore individual messages as well as complete mailboxes, either to the same or a different mail store.

Each product was evaluated in the following areas:

  • Installation and documentation
  • Ease of use
  • Flexibility of configuration to suit differing network architectures.
  • Performance – throughput, IOPs and latency
  • Price/performance – what is the gain, and at what cost? Obviously, these systems are not for everyone – who will benefit from the added performance enough to justify the relatively high cost?

In addition to performing basic email archiving, we found that these tools can have other benefits. Archiving systems can save space on enterprise mail servers by moving older messages and attachments to inexpensive storage, leaving behind a 'stub' or placeholder.

If the user tries to open a message that has been stubbed, the archiving system transparently restores the message to the email server. This can save on hardware costs, since a mail server generally requires high performance storage, while archiving solutions can use inexpensive SATA-based storage that may cost a tenth as much.

Most systems can also find PST files that users have saved locally and reincorporate them into the archive to ensure that the messages are backed up. All of the products in this test offer an Outlook plug-in that adds functionality, but is not required for basic use of the system. None of the plug-ins were difficult to install or obtrusive once in place. All of the products can integrate with Active Directory or other LDAP directories to make it simple to set up a portal so users can find and restore messages.

Another useful function is the ability to archive one version of Exchange and restore to another. This makes it possible to upgrade more transparently than via the standard Microsoft upgrade procedure, and with the ability to back out if things go wrong.

In our testing, we looked at appliances and software-only products. And we tested products targeted at 100 end users all the way up to solutions for the largest enterprises.



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