7 Email Archiving Best Practices Every IT Pro Needs to Know


Experts predict that by the end of 2021, almost 320 billion emails will be sent each day. With such a massive amount of information being shared, it’s critical to ensure that company emails are not only sent and received securely but also stored properly. 

The Difference Between Email Backup and Email Archiving

If your organization has a strong backup strategy in place, you may think you don’t need to bother with email retention. That is a common misconception, because on the surface, backing up emails and archiving emails seem like they serve the same purpose. In reality, the two are used for completely different functions, and you need to do both.

Email backups are primarily used for disaster recovery. The backup is essentially a snapshot of the data at a given time. When a new backup is deployed, the old backup is replaced, and the new version becomes the data that will be used for recovery. If emails are mistakenly deleted or corrupted just before a new backup is done, those emails are gone for good. 

Email archiving, meanwhile, is used for long-term retention of emails. New emails are added to the archive, they don’t replace old ones, and archived emails can’t be edited or deleted. Archived email is indexed, so it is keyword searchable and easily accessible, which is great if your company must adhere to strict compliance guidelines.

If your company is one of the millions that uses Microsoft 365, email archiving is a must. Office 365 doesn’t offer long-term retention capabilities, so simply backing up Exchange isn’t sufficient. 


Archiving will also protect your company if legal issues crop up after an employee leaves or is terminated. An email archive enables you to provide any needed documentation litigation requires, and you don’t have to maintain the ex-employee’s license to access the saved emails.

Whether you’re in charge of IT for a Fortune 500 corporation, a mid-size healthcare organization, or an education provider, you are generating a huge amount of data through emails every day, and that data needs to be stored somewhere. Because you also need to be able to access specific files and messages quickly and easily, an archiving solution is essential to streamline email retrieval and manage storage affordably.

Best Practices for Email Retention

Here are seven email archiving habits every IT pro should adopt to ensure emails are secure, retrievable, and in compliance.

Automate the archiving and legal hold processes.

Manually archiving emails is time-consuming and the process is prone to errors. When you automate archiving and legal holds, you can stress less. All incoming and outgoing emails are captured and stored in a secure repository. Should the need arise, you are eDiscovery-ready and able to quickly access important emails and files.

Automate your email retention policies.

There is no sense in paying to store emails longer than you have to, but IT teams are already stretched thin, so who has time to clean house regularly? Automate retention policies so emails are automatically removed from the archive after the retention period ends (e.g., nonessential emails after 30 days; HR after seven years; emails involved in litigation never).

Triple check retention laws and regulations.

Different industries are subject to specific requirements for record retention, so be sure you know how long to save emails and how to store them. For example, HIPAA defines how sensitive healthcare information can be transmitted electronically and specifies how those emails must be archived.

Assemble a team to set retention policies.

There are a lot of moving parts when setting email retention policies, so be sure you get the right people in on the decision-making process. Involve the legal team, stakeholders, and a representative from every department in the company to ensure the retention periods and storage requirements work for the entire organization.

Update retention processes and policies annually.

Regulations are always changing, and failure to keep up can saddle your company with some serious—and expensive—legal issues to clean up. Regular reviews of retention policies and processes will help keep you compliant with the latest rules and regulations for your industry.

Make everyone in the company aware of policy changes.

Employees can’t be expected to follow the rules if they don’t know what they are. Be sure to notify all employees every time a retention policy is updated, explain the reasons for the change, and provide a link to the updated documentation. 

Plan ahead for future storage needs.

Investing in a cloud-based email archive solution is the best way to future-proof your archiving strategy. You will save time and money by not having on-premises hardware to maintain and only paying for the storage you use. Cloud solutions streamline archived email accessibility and retrieval, which is crucial for organizations that need to quickly find specific information for litigation or compliance auditing. 

Long-term email retention is important for legal, compliance, and historical documentation. Some mistakenly believe that backing up email is enough; in fact, both backups and archives are necessary to ensure emails are recoverable after a disaster and accessible for eDiscovery or retrieving business-critical information. 

Download Don’t Get Caught Assuming: How to Protect Microsoft Office 365 Data to learn more about how email archiving protects sensitive company data and why it is especially important for Microsoft Exchange users.