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Email archiving: Hardware and software considerations

Customers using cobbled together email archiving solutions -- or nothing at all -- present tremendous opportunities for resellers. This tip offers some points to consider when choosing email archiving hardware and software.

Every customer needs email archive. Some may believe they don't but it takes only one disgruntled employee to change all that. So if every customer needs email archive, it's natural for a reseller to offer a solution.

There are several components to email archive though unfortunately many customers only think of it as a piece of software. An email archive offering will include both hardware and software, the characteristics of which are detailed in this tip.

Email archive software

There are a number of email archive programs varying widely in price and functionality. To put together an offering to resell to a broad customer base, you will need more than one software option for the simple reason that not all customers use the same email program. The most popular is Microsoft Exchange but you may come across others like Lotus Notes. Most email archive programs are also specific to the email software.

A determining factor for which email archive program to use is the number of mailboxes supported: The more mailboxes the more expensive the software; many times the price is actually a graduated scale based on the number of mailboxes. Customers have an aversion to that type of pricing. They want to pay one price and it's the reseller's job to determine how to meet pricing requirements for customers. The software support costs are usually a percentage of the purchase price.

Another factor is whether the software meets some regulatory requirement function to manage email deletion. Many less expensive solutions and customers using home-grown email archiving approaches may fail the scrutiny of legal requirements -- when needed most. You must carefully examine and choose a product that has the integrity to meet such requirements.

Hardware

Most email archive software programs are agnostic about which hardware is used to store data. Customers don't always understand the implications of hardware selection, providing an opportunity for you to inform them and make a sale. The storage for the archive must meet immutability requirements, so data on the archive can't be modified once written. Usually a WORM device is used. Some believe that beyond immutability where the data cannot be altered once written, a chain of custody tracking (where the control of who has access to data and when is established) is needed in the hardware solution as well. There are archive solutions, usually referred to as archive appliances, that utilize removable disk technology, which is ruggedized so that it may be handled and transported without damage to the media, tape or optical to meet regulatory requirements. Since there are different types and sizes, a configurable hardware solution makes the most sense.

Email archiving is a requirement for customers. Customers using cobbled together solutions or no solution present tremendous opportunities for resellers. The reseller must put together the right technology in an offering that fits each customer segment.

About the author: Randy Kerns is an independent storage consultant. In the past, he served as vice president of strategy and planning for storage at Sun Microsystems Inc., and covers storage and storage management software including SAN and NAS analysis.

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