Storing immutable copies of email communications is a vital part of compliance for many businesses, but handling legacy and leavers’ email archives – particularly when migrating to the cloud – can be a struggle. Corporates facing this situation have three main options to consider: traditional 3rd -party solutions; Microsoft Office 365’s in place hold; and a new addition to cloud storage provider, HubStor’s, existing comprehensive unstructured data archiving suite.

Traditional 3rd-Party Journal Archives

“There are plenty of 3rd-party journal archiving solutions out there, both onsite and in the cloud,” says Chris Hathaway, founder and director of Soarsoft International, specialist information management and migration solution providers. “Some of them are great, some of them less so, but the main problem they have in common is that they’re usually extremely complicated and make it very difficult to retrieve your data if you decide to move it elsewhere. This combination can make them quite expensive to use.”

For this reason, many modern businesses are investigating alternative solutions, one of which is Office 365’s less conventional archiving approach.

Microsoft’s In Place Hold

“Businesses migrating to Office 365 are often surprised to learn that Microsoft has no traditional, central journal archiving functionality,” says Hathaway. “That doesn’t mean they don’t offer compliant storage of email records, however: they’ve just gone about it in a slightly different way.”

Instead of creating an immutable duplicate of each and every email sent from a user’s account and storing this in a cloud archive, Microsoft simply stores the original email at the source using a relatively new indefinite hold feature on the standard retention folder. Check sum algorithms are then used to guarantee the authenticity of the email contents, and built-in search functionality facilitates most eDiscovery processes in place.

“This is actually a very neat and compact solution to what can be an unwieldly necessity,” says Hathaway, “but there are a few downsides when migrating large volumes of content from third-party archive solutions.”

Journal archives must be ‘rehydrated’ before they can be migrated to Office 365. This process essentially takes a single record of an email’s contents, path and participants, and explodes it into individual records for every email address involved.

“This has to happen so that the email can be placed in every participating user’s mailbox,” says Hathaway, “since that’s how these records are retained in place, in Office 365. Unfortunately, that means journal archives expand exponentially in size during migrations to Office 365, and would take many years for large enterprises to complete without rigorous data reduction. Leavers’ email content is another challenge, as these users no longer exist in the organisation and their data has no associated mailbox in which to live.”

Fortunately, implementation of deduplication and defensible deletion protocols based on corporate data governance policies prior to migration does minimise the impact of this problem. It can, nonetheless, still be a deterrent for businesses with strict retention policies and extensive archives, and has resulted in many companies choosing to maintain legacy onsite archives and use Office 365’s in place hold for current and future communications, only.

“A hybrid setup like this can be a functional option, but it’s also costly,” says Hathaway, “since you either have to maintain your onsite architecture indefinitely, and overhaul it every few years, or maintain an additional third-party cloud service provider. In the long run, it’s almost always better from an operational and financial perspective to go through the migration process and store all your archives in the Office 365 or Azure cloud.

“There are several ways to go about this, but we’re particularly excited about the new Compliance Journal Archive from HubStor, which addresses a lot of the most common pain points experienced during and after migration.”

HubStor’s Compliance Journal Archive

HubStor, best known for their data aware Azure cloud storage and archiving, recently extended their existing services to include message journal archiving in the cloud. Their Compliance Journal Archive is designed to work in combination with Office 365, using Microsoft’s Journal Rules to stream email traffic from Office 365 into a client’s chosen Azure tenant (or one of HubStor’s own). There, HubStor creates a secure and compliant journal archive, complete with cutting-edge policy-management, search and eDiscovery functionality, at a remarkably affordable price point.

“HubStor is also able to ingest email records from onsite Exchange servers into the same, secure, Azure location,” says Hathaway, “negating the need for businesses to maintain expensive legacy archives, and creating a single, compliant repository for past and present journal streams.”

Of course, in situations where some mailboxes need to remain onsite indefinitely, the Compliance Journal Archive can support a hybrid setup.

Far more than just storage, however, HubStor also offers extraordinary data analysis capabilities.

“Analytics have always been central to HubStor’s service offering,” says Hathaway, “enabling, amongst other things, the defensible deletion of redundant, outdated and trivial information to reduce enterprise storage requirements over time. For email and journal migrations, this is an invaluable asset, often decreasing the amount of data stored by as much as 65%, before compression. It also makes eDiscovery and search much faster and more efficient.”

By reducing your data on an ongoing basis, HubStor also effectively reduces your costs, as their pay-as-you-go subscription service (which can be cancelled at any time) is based on your Azure usage.

As for security, all data is encrypted with a key held only by the client and follows your active directory permissions model. That means no readable information can be passed on by HubStor, even under government instruction – an important consideration for companies concerned with the impact of the US Patriot Act or similar legislation.

“As far as unstructured data archiving solutions go, for all content, including journal archiving, HubStor’s is a very attractive option,” says Hathaway. “It’s a flexible, scalable, affordable, compliant, and zero lock-in solution that provides excellent eDiscovery and search capabilities. Data can be returned to your native servers, in its native format, at any time. It’s ideal for enterprises who are using – or moving to – Office 365 and Azure, but prefer a more traditional journal archive interface, have data sovereignty or security concerns, or simply require compliant cloud storage and access to their legacy archives.”

Hubstor is a cost-effective, fully-managed, Azure-based platform for the retention and management of unstructured data including files, email, recordings, and other content traditionally stored onsite. For more information on how Hubstor’s solutions can simplify your enterprise archiving requirements across the board, get in touch with Soarsoft International.

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