Web & communication software

Sorting Through E-mail Archiving Tools

Between disaster recovery, compliance with legislative requirements and the need to meet e-discovery demands, enterprises should have some level of e-mail 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 e-mail 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 e-mail 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.

In Part 1 of this two-part review, we analyze seven leading products: Barracuda Message Archiver 450, Deepinvent MailStore 5.0.0.4468, 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.

In addition to performing basic e-mail 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 e-mail 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 re-incorporate 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.

Here are quick thumbnail results on each product (click on products below to see individual stories):

* The Barracuda appliance delivers excellent scalability, a good feature set and a low price per user.

* Deepinvent offers a very simple installation, SMB-oriented features and good pricing.

* For small and midsized businesses looking for the best value, GFI offers low prices, a good feature set, and a product that can grow with an organization.

* Jatheon offers the ease of installation of an appliance, with easy administration as well.

* RedGate offers a small and midsized business product that focuses on disaster recovery.

* At the high end of the scale, MetaLogix offers a full set of features, great granularity, and excellent migration tools.

* And Symantec offers the most powerful product in this test, though also the most complex to set up and administer.

Logan Harbaugh is a freelance reviewer and IT consultant in Redding, Calif. He has been working in IT for almost 20 years, and has written two books on networking, as well as articles for most of the major computer publications. He can be reached at logan@lharba.com.

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

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