Is Office 365 Archiving Worth it?

Office 365 is a great product. It is used by thousands of organizations around the world to host their corporate email. Office 365 makes a…

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December 1, 201510 minute read

Office 365 is a great product. It is used by thousands of organizations around the world to host their corporate email. Office 365 makes a lot of people happy. End-users are happy, because the can access their email anytime, and anywhere. Plus, the interface is well-known and user friendly. The IT department is happy, because they don’t need to manage onsite servers, and they can spend more time working on more pressing issues. Management is happy, because everyone else is happy. Plus, Office 365 has an inexpensive archiving solution. Who wouldn’t be happy with that? It sounds great, right? Especially if it saves you money on archiving and compliance, and it allows you to keep the government and industry regulatory auditors, as well your compliance team happy. Or does it?

The Microsoft cloud archiving for Office 365 appears to be relatively inexpensive, and could possibly be free if you are a school.  Microsoft can also throw it in as an incentive when you move to the Microsoft cloud platform.  For just a few dollars per user, the built-in archiving for Office 365 is a cost savings as far as the licensing is concerned. But as we all know, licensing is not the only cost involved in a software purchase.  What other costs will come up? Is a low cost, or even free, built-in archive really worth it if you end up shelling out more money to make up for missing features (ediscovery tools, etc.), and essential services. Not to mention the possible compliance and regulatory fines?

Before we get into all that, let’s first take a look at why we should be archiving email and in the first place

Why archive email?

Why are organizations required to archive email and other business communication data in the first place? The main purpose of email archiving is to preserve electronically stored information (ESI), because it may be needed for future use,  like for litigation or regulatory compliance.  But, having the data preserved is only a small piece of the archiving requirement.

The retention and preservation of business communication data is important, but the real power of the archive is found in the ability of organizations to research, retrieve, analyze and export all the data from the archive, also known as eDiscovery. This process has become especially important when dealing with litigation, HR issues, public records requests, etc.

E-discovery today represents 35% of the total cost of litigation, and companies that fail to produce e-mails in a timely or appropriate manner face the risk of paying millions of dollars in sanctions and fines.

Osterman Research

Michael Osterman of Osterman Research, a leading authority in email systems and data preservation has stated, “E-discovery is becoming much more important in the context of civil litigation – for example, roughly three out of four discovery orders today require e-mail to be produced as part of the discovery process. E-discovery today represents 35% of the total cost of litigation, and companies that fail to produce e-mails in a timely or appropriate manner face the risk of paying millions of dollars in sanctions and fines, not to mention loss of corporate reputation, lost revenue and embarrassment.” 1

In fact, eDiscovery is so important that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) actually require all organizations, “…to manage their data in such a way that this data can be produced in a timely and complete manner when necessary, such as during legal discovery proceedings.”  If you have an archive with limited or inadequate eDiscovery tools, it will certainly will not allow you to produce emails in a, “timely and complete manner.”

Now you are probably saying “I get it… eDiscovery is important, but eDiscovery is included for free in Office 365…right?” Unfortunately, that isn’t exactly the case with Office 365’s archiving and eDiscovery. Let’s take a look at what Office 365 archiving offers in comparison to what your organization may really need.

Office 365 Archiving

Office 365’s archiving solution, Exchange online archiving, offers the following features:

  • In-Place Email Archive
  • In-Place Hold and Litigation Hold
  • Integrated management interface from within the Exchange Administration Center
  • Unlimited Storage
  • Minimal eDiscovery features
  • Users can access archived email from Outlook and the Outlook Web App
  • Users manage their archived email from within their inbox
  • Set Retention policies
  • Deleted item recovery
  • Deleted mailbox recovery
  • Encryption between on-premises servers and Exchange Online Archiving
  • Encrypting between clients and Exchange Online Archiving

While this seems to be an impressive feature set, this list comes up short in comparison to what most organizations need when it comes to archiving and eDiscovery.

Office 365 Archiving Limitations

Exchange online archiving, is good at one thing…archiving email. That’s it. As I mentioned earlier, your company has a duty to preserve ALL Electronically Stored Information. ESI includes ALL electronic business communication. Not just email.

In addition to archiving email, your organization should also be archiving instant messages, social media postings, mobile phone SMS/MMS messages, and even web search logs. Office 365 doesn’t archive your mobile device communication data. It doesn’t archive employee social media posts. It doesn’t archive employees’ instant messages. It also doesn’t archive other Microsoft communication tools like Yammer, Lync, or Skype for Business. If you aren’t archiving all of that business communication data, how will you be prepared for a full eDiscovery or Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request as a result of a litigation or compliance investigation?

You also need to be asking if your compliance department is happy with the limited indexing, search, and archiving capabilities in Office 365? Can your legal team accept that archived data in Office 365 cannot be truly classified as original, immutable content because the data can be changed? Do they even know that by default Office 365 does not protect items in the archive from tampering or alteration? Is management willing to pay for additional archiving products to capture your other business communication data? Are you ready to deal with a costly eDiscovery effort (employee downtime, misappropriation of IT resources, employing outside eDiscovery service contractors, etc) to find data you should already have archived?

There are other additional important limitations that you truly must take into consideration before you use Office 365’s Exchange online archiving. If you are already using the Office 365 archive, these might make you reconsider.

  • Office 365 archiving is limited to two concurrent searches at a time. Your organization may need to run more than two searches at the same time. This is especially true if you have multiple teams that need to search, including HR, legal, IT, auditors, or others. Also, if you have multiple people in IT who need to run a search, is it possible that more than two people will want to complete that task at the same time? This limitation can create a major bottleneck for your company.
  • The inability to search across more than 10,000 mailboxes in a single search. This is a concern for larger organizations that have more than 10,000 mailboxes because they will have to break the search into smaller groupings.
  • End-user search results limitation of 250 items. By default, the Office 365 Outlook client is configured to return a maximum of 250 search items. This limit can be bypassed by configuring each individual Outlook client. However, many end-users would not expect a default limitation, and would not know to change the setting option, which means that they would be wasting time and money recreating data that actually exists but was not found.
  • Lack of Protection of Archived Items. Office 365 does not protect items in the archive from tampering or alteration. This means that archived content can not be classified as original, immutable content, because it can be changed. The only way to protect archived content from alteration is for the administrator to place an In-Place Hold or Litigation Hold on the messages that need to be protected.

And this isn’t the whole list! There are even more issues you should worry about. CLICK HERE to download a FREE PDF that shows all the other problems with Office 365 Archiving.


Why You Need Third-Party Archiving

Hopefully, you can see that the Office 365 archiving solution is just not good enough for many organizations. This is especially true if your organization operates in a regulated industry like Healthcare, Finance, Education, Legal firms, and Government. If that is the case, you are under much more scrutiny than other businesses.

An archive that lacks the ability to archive all your business communication data, and without adequate eDiscovery tools is essentially like having a car without an engine: it looks nice, and you can show everyone that you have a car, but it does nothing more than sit there and look good. Because of the lack of adequate search and eDiscovery tools, and complete data archiving, many organizations choose a third-party archiving solution that archives Office 365, as well as mobile, social, and IM data.

Some important things to look for in a third-party Office 365 archiving solution include:

  • Support for multiple email systems – Does your organization still run Exchange? Do you have a Gmail system for certain users and Office 365 for others (this is common for education)? If so, you need to have an archive that supports multiple systems.
  • Full eDiscovery tools – A good archiving solution needs to include tools to search your archive and place litigation holds, redacted, and export to PDF and PST.
  • Immutable, unalterable data – Your archiving solution must prevent users from changing the data. If it includes a complete audit trail, and intelligent threading, that helps to ensure that your archive is complete and compliant.
  • Granular retention/disposition of archived data – Systematic retention/disposition policies provide for granular information management/regulatory compliance processes, including defensible disposition.
  • Immediate Access and Search of Archived Messages – you need near zero latency between the time a message is archived and when it is indexed and available to be searched.
  • Storage Flexibility – Many solutions provide you with the ability to store your archive on-prem, in the cloud, or as a combined hybrid system
  • Archiving and Regulatory Compliance for FINRA, SEC, FRCP, DODD-FRANK, FISMA, FERPA, SOX, HIPPA, HITECH and other regulations

To learn more about what is lacking and what is needed in Office 365 archiving, Download this FREE Osterman whitepaper “The Need for Third-Party Archiving in Office 365

Archive Office 365 with Retain!

As you can see, third-party archive solutions can provide far more than Office 365 and Exchange online archiving can offer. If you are looking for an archiving solution, look no further than Retain Unified Archiving by GWAVA. It provides your organization all the benefits above, and more!

Retain provides multi-platform unified message archiving of all email, social media, instant messaging, web search and mobile communication data for case assessment, search, and eDiscovery and can be deployed on-prem or in the cloud. The Retain archive is accessible by end users and administrators directly through Retain’s Web Access Archive Viewer. This enables your organization to quickly access, search, and audit archived communication data. Easily place litigation holds, print, forward, save, redact, and export your message data. Retain reduces cost, mitigates risk, and manages complexity on prem or in the cloud. Retain also includes an Outlook Plugin so that archived end-user messages can be accessed and searched directly from within Outlook.

Start archiving Office 365 with Retain today! Click here to download a FREE 30 day evaluation of Retain.

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OpenText, The Information Company, enables organizations to gain insight through market-leading information management solutions, powered by OpenText Cloud Editions.

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