Which is best: Exchange 2010 archiving vs. third-party tools

When used together, Exchange 2010's archiving features can satisfy most companies' compliance and e-discovery needs

Archiving products have been around for quite some time, but you may not need them with Exchange 2010's out-of-the-box archiving capabilities. Then again, maybe you do need a third-party archiving tool. Let's find out.

An archive is not a backup of your data, although some tools use backups as their "archives." What's the difference? Backups are typically focused on data restoration in the event of disaster or corruption, and they're usually overwritten after a short time. Archives, on the other hand, are held for many years (in some cases, 7 to 10, depending on government regulations). Archives are also driven less by a desire to restore content and more by the necessity to turn over materials in a legal matter. Any company, large or small, can be required to turn over its electronic communications data, email being the most common item requested.

[ Discover the key technologies to speed archival storage and get quick data recovery in InfoWorld's Archiving Deep Dive PDF special report. | Stay abreast of key Microsoft technologies in our Technology: Microsoft newsletter. ]

The cost of e-discovery for companies that do not have an archive product in place can be astronomical. Especially costly in the e-discovery process when you don't have archiving is the proliferation of PST files on users' desktops due to mailbox quotas imposed to keep the mailbox archives off the data center's costly SAN. Such local storage may be cheaper and require less IT effort, but this PST data is considered part of the scope for a legal request and must be searched in the event of a legal matter.

What Exchange 2010 offers for e-discovery and compliance

Exchange 2010 SP1 offers several features for managing archive email data:

Journaling can be configured to capture all email in transit in your organization (with Exchange Standard) or directly to specific mailboxes or distribution lists (with Exchange Premium, which requires an enterprise license). Journaling can help meet compliance objectives because it provides a way to copy the data. But it also increases your storage requirements, doesn't provide a tamper-proof product, and doesn't stop users from using local PSTs -- so it may not hold up in court on its own. In addition, journaling doesn't provide the e-discovery indexing and search capabilities you can find in an archive product, and it doesn't have retention configuration settings.

Personal Archive allows all users to have personal archive mailboxes that can be set up in the same production database as their production mailbox. It can also be set in a separate database, a separate server and database, or even the cloud. Users can manually move data to the archive, or data can be moved automatically through retention tags that are automatically or manually applied to the emails by users. The emails (and attachments) are moved -- not copied -- and the data is indexed for easier discovery through a multiple-mailbox search. The archive can be backed up and/or made more highly available through the Database Availability Group (DAG) continuous-replication product built into Exchange.

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