Are You Being Held Hostage by Your Legacy Email Archives? The Top Three Threats and How to Escape Them.

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Today, countless IT organizations are being faced with challenges regarding the management of legacy email archives.  Of course, some of these archives simply grew like weeds over time, while some unfortunate IT professionals inherited the legacy when they joined their current employer.  However they arrived in their current situation, many are now feeling trapped and looking for escape – knowing that they not only face management and cost issues, but other threats as well.  We are exploring this topic today with Archive360‘s Bill Tolson.

VMblog:  To begin, how do you/your customers define a legacy email archive?

Bill Tolson:  By legacy, Archive360 and our customers are meaning email archives that were designed and deployed in the early 2000’s – most of the time they are hosted on-site, but sometimes we also find cases of hosted email archive solutions, the earliest examples of “cloud.”  Unfortunately, as many have learned the hard way, these legacy email archives present very real threats. 

VMblog:  Which threat do you feel is most prevalent?

Tolson:  Topping my list of threats is: support.  It is a fact of business that vendors and their IP, or products, are bought and sold.  Most legacy email archive products have passed through several owners.  Each owner may have kept the product “as is” or added a bit of their own secret sauce to the recipe.  Of course, there can be benefits to new ownership, but there can also be many disadvantages. 

To start, what was the reason for the ownership change?  Was the acquirer looking specifically for an archive product, or was the archive product simply an element of a larger purchase?  Was the purchase in an effort to gain market share, and/or eliminate a competitor?  As is often the case, the new owner may have very little (if any) interest in the archive product and therefore will not/does not make any investment in the product’s continued development. 

With the archive product under new ownership, assuming the product isn’t end-of-lifed (EOL) – meaning all support will shortly be eliminated, the next question is: How good will the support be from the new owner?  If you are responsible for your organization’s archiving, you know that the first change likely to happen is a change in support structure, accompanied by an increase in support fees. 

Bottom line, today almost all legacy email archive systems have either zero support available, and have not enjoyed a bug-fix in years (not to mention, isn’t likely to work with any of today’s technology), or the support is increasingly poor and increasingly expensive. 

VMblog:  What do you view as the second most common threat?

Tolson:  The second issue we commonly come across is that of: security.  Legacy email archives were designed and deployed on legacy hardware and software.  Two very common examples are Microsoft Windows Server 2003 and Windows SQL Server.  At one time, both products were the mainstay of virtually every email archiving solution.  Legacy email archives that are still running on these EOL products present very real security risks to your business.  Microsoft is aware and has proactively communicated to the community regarding these risks.  Here are links to a few examples of those communications:

In reality, finding archives still running on legacy hardware/software is extremely common.  In fact, Archive360 just completed a legacy email archive migration for a customer whose archive was running on SQL Server 2000.  SQL Server 2000 has been end-of-life since April 2013.

VMblog:  And, last but not least – what do you view as the third most common threat?

Tolson:  These are litigious times, so the third threat on our list is: legal.  In today’s business climate, lawsuits – frivolous or otherwise, have become routine.  In particular, lawsuits from former employees are on the rise.  The number one source of evidence for such law suits is email.  Legacy email archives can potentially contain years of old email. 

VMblog:  So, what advice would you give?

Tolson:  From a legal and regulations compliance standpoint, my advice to clients is to take the time to perform a search and take inventory of your legacy email archive.  How many years of email does it contain?  How is it being protected?  How accessible is it?  Now approach Executive Management, your General Counsel and/or Regulations Officer, inform them, and ask him/her what the company’s policy and responsibilities are for email archive management.  Email retention/management may be governed by an industry regulation; and this is the responsibility of your General Counsel and/or Regulations Officer to decipher and advise.  For instance, there may be specific guidelines around how long emails must be retained.  And, while regulations/laws must always be followed, email that is kept past its useful and/or necessary timeline could create an unnecessary legal risk for your organization.  Likewise, it is prudent to keep other email as an historical timeline, to protect trademarks and/or IP, etc.  Again, working closely with corporate management, legal and your regulations teams is critical.  Once guidance is provided, enforce it immediately.  Many times, existing technology is such that adherence to internal governance and/or external regulations is impossible.  In these cases, migrating to modern technology is smart from a management, cost, legal and regulations compliance standpoint.

VMblog:  Any last thoughts you care to share with readers?

Tolson:  If you are sitting on a legacy email archiving and putting off the decision to make a change – I hope that this discussion has gotten your attention.  Updating your email archive can be a completely painless process, if you partner with the right organization(s).  And, in doing so you will improve management, security, availability, scalability, protection and lower costs – while eliminating the aforementioned threats.  You shouldn’t feel as if you are being held hostage by your legacy email archive.  Thousands of organizations have successfully moved to new email archive platforms, so there really is a light at the end of the tunnel.


About Bill Tolson, Vice President of Marketing, Archive360

Bill Tolson has more than 25 years of experience with multinational corporations and technology start-ups, including 15-plus years in the archiving, information governance, regulations compliance and legal eDiscovery markets. Prior to joining Archive360, Bill held leadership positions at Actiance, Recommind, Hewlett Packard, Iron Mountain, Mimosa Systems, and StorageTek.  Bill is a much sought and frequent speaker at legal, regulatory compliance and information governance industry events and has authored numerous articles and blogs. Bill is the author of two eBooks: “The Know IT All’s Guide to eDiscovery” and “The Bartenders Guide to eDiscovery.” He is also the author of the book “Cloud Archiving for Dummies” and co-author of the book “Email Archiving for Dummies.” Bill holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management from California State University Dominguez Hills.