While I want to spend some time talking about a handful of issues associated with free email archiving solutions, what they all have in common is that they end up not being free after all.
I’m not going to tell you that you won’t realize some cost savings when switching to a third-party solution. You will. In fact, when you consider the cost savings from switching to our archiving and backup product, what you save should more than make the costs worthwhile.
So let’s take a look at a few of the issues that we continue to hear from school districts that decide to give up on free archiving solutions like Google Vault.
First, hosted solutions should guarantee nearly 100% uptime. If they don’t, then you might want to look at a different third-party provider. Availability especially comes into play when you consider litigation and ediscovery. Providing access to your archive 24/7—or at least when your lawyers need it—should never come at the expense of network downtime for maintenance, product upgrades, etc.
You will also want to find out where your data is being stored and have some control over its physical location. And be sure to ask about redundancy, which mitigates the risks of hosting data with a single vendor by providing another copy of it at another location. My guess is that’s not going to be free either.
Then there’s the often-difficult task of managing the solution. Your vendor should offer to do a lot of the heavy lifting for you. But that costs time. And time costs money. For instance, free solutions won’t be able to give quick access to a non-licensed user, such as a lawyer who needs temporary access to do searches. Any expectations of responsive customer service, without a price tag, simply aren’t realistic with free email archiving products.
Staying on the topic of lawyers, considering ediscovery is the key driver for most solutions, you’ll also want to consider searching and exporting. Again, what appears to be free can become quite costly in the long run. Third-party archiving solutions should be built to search and export. That’s the point of them. We understand that you need quick and easy access to your data. Your archiving solution should not be restrictive on file formats for exporting, how long it will take to get large quantities of data or the number of concurrent searches.
The last issue I want to mention is scalability. The longer you stay with a third-party archiving provider, the more data there will be. The last time I checked, cloud storage is not free. One thing is sure: The amount of data in your archive will grow as we move forward in time, while employees tend not to respect data limits.
It’s hard to estimate the data capacity you will need one year, five years or 10 years from now. When a local server fills up, you’re looking at a capital expenditure. The same goes for a hosted solution. Someone will need to pay for it. Choose a vendor that will build your archive today for the future.
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