The Evolution of Exchange Email Archiving

Mike Mastine, Director of Technical Systems at IPRO

GWArchive 3.0. That’s where it started for me back in 2006. An email archive product that connected to Novell’s Groupwise email system.

The solution has evolved in many ways but one of the most fundamental is by adding support for Exchange email archiving. It started with Exchange 2007 before adding Exchange 2010 and so on, all the way through to the current Exchange Online versions.

We have also added support for indexing and archiving many more forms of data (or ESI) such as files stored on network shares or cloud storage solutions. Other parts of the Office 365 platform that we support include Sharepoint and OneDrive services and coming soon is support for Microsoft Teams.

Exchange Email Archiving – Still a Big Deal?

With the evolution of the software solution over all these years and the pace of change in technology, I asked myself the question: Is Exchange Email Archiving still a big deal for us? The short answer is “YES”.

For a longer answer to that question, let’s start by considering a few “data” points:

  • Numerous sources claim that email is the preferred business communication tool and every source I came across predicted increasing email volumes (varying between 4% to 18% growth year over year).
  • Businesses are still concerned about retention and digital preservation.
  • Regulatory compliance is still a big issue that is increasingly complex.
  • Litigation and eDiscovery are not going away anytime soon.

In addition, migration is still an issue that comes up. Some enterprises are moving from other platforms, such as Groupwise, while others are moving from on-premise exchange solutions to Office365.

So Microsoft Exchange Archiving is still relevant. The next question that came to mind for me was related to our own software. Every vendor likes to think that they offer the best solution and we are no different. The question is then, what are our “data” points to support this opinion?

As I started this post with a look back to the beginning, maybe an interesting way to frame this would be to revive some of the main technology decisions we made and ask myself, in hindsight, if we have any regrets about the choices we made.

1. XML-Based Data Repository

When we started this concept of XML storage of the data, most solutions seemed to be based upon databases or other proprietary storage formats. It made sense because we wanted to index all the data and this format made it much easier to do this. This method has also made it easier for third party integrations and allows the customer to truly own their data.

No regrets here.

2. Indexing Technologies

From the beginning of GWArchive to the present NetGovern Archive, we have used 3 different indexing technologies. While moving to new indexing technologies was painful and laborious for the development and deployment teams, the ability to move to newer technologies allowed us to increase the abilities of the software, such as in-place search, and provide more value to our customers.

No regrets about staying with state of the art technology.

3. Microsoft Technologies

The core of our Exchange email archiving software is based upon .Net using C# for the most part. Other products in our portfolio run on Linux. So, even before we leave the R&D offices we are in the midst of heated debates.

Taking it beyond personal preferences, the simple fact is that if you want to do Exchange Email Archiving, it makes the most sense to use Microsoft technologies (OS and development platform).

Other than the time wasted with internal debates, once again no regrets about this choice.

4. Clustering

Clustering provides the product with high availability and scalability that is required for an enterprise-class product. Whether it is required for initial deployment and/or on-going archiving of emails on a daily basis, there is no doubt that clustering was required.

Was it painful? Certainly. I would guess that the ability to use multiple worker nodes automatically and cohesively added an order of magnitude to the coding, testing, and benchmarking efforts.

Regrets? None whatsoever.

The Verdict

Many years of evolution and archiving mailboxes and no major regrets about technology decisions … that’s one reason why we like to think that we have the best email archiving solution for Exchange.