How Microsoft Exchange Falls Short as an Archiving Solution

While recent changes to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) complicate the subject of email archiving, it’s important to understand where products such as Microsoft Exchange fall short when it comes to retention and other important areas of eDiscovery.

For a little background, in Exchange 2007 you were provided a cumbersome way to set retention policies in mailboxes. It was a very manual, labor-intensive process to create and manage custom folders for mailboxes on your server. You also had to make sure retention started when messages were delivered—which isn’t something you would think to do—to assure the entire archive didn’t get compromised.

Assuming you created everything correctly, there was still no true eDiscovery component within Exchange 2007. You retained your email; you had it for the amount of time that you wanted, but as far as searching and retrieving data go, good luck. Especially in a legal situation, you were faced with a time-consuming and costly process to get what you needed for lawyers or a judge.

Fast-forward 10 years and a lot of organizations moved to Exchange 2010, which included some significant upgrades. For instance, retention policies became archive rules, and a new searchable interface was created to help administrators find content more easily.

While Microsoft added some decent search capabilities to Exchange 2010, there are still drawbacks. First, you don’t have the same search capabilities for different Outlook clients and Exchange clients. There’s also a very limited number of search parameters, so when your eDiscovery team tries to find data, it might be hard for them to find what they’re looking for in a timely manner.

There are more concerns in Exchange 2010 that center on search. If there’s encryption on sent messages, they won’t get indexed, and certain file types attached to email messages won’t be indexed.

Beyond searching, litigation holds are imperative in an eDiscovery solution. Usually, you would set a litigation hold when you want to preserve email for a longer period than you default retention policy. Exchange 2010 gives you the option of having a litigation hold, but you have to put an entire mailbox on hold.

The last issue to bring up is storage. Storage is often a concern within Exchange especially since retention is done on a whole mailbox. Even with low-end storage, unexpected costs are never pleasant surprises.

Sure, third party archiving solutions for Exchange come with a cost of their own, but they’re built around eDiscovery, which makes identifying, preserving, collecting and producing electronically stored information quick and painless. You will take care of a lot of that cost up front as opposed to the ongoing and unplanned costs that come with Exchange.

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