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How to Leverage Effective E-mail Archiving Solutions
By Ken Horner

E-mail is the major application for healthcare organizations to communicate with members and partners, and internally as well. However, healthcare organizations, given compliance and regulatory requirements, face challenges with regard to securing, retaining, and accessing required e-mail over long periods of time. The solution for many organizations has been to deploy e-mail archiving solutions to capture and retain e-mail and electronic discovery solutions to identify and access required e-mail. Here are several areas to consider when designing an e-mail archiving strategy to avoid potential gaps.

Compliance and Litigation Support
Given the growth of e-mail and the onset of other forms of messaging such as short message service texts, healthcare organizations are challenged to meet compliance and regulatory requirements with their current solutions. While e-mail archiving solutions play a vital role in helping organizations capture and retain e-mail messages sent from host-based e-mail systems such as Microsoft Exchange, most organizations fail to consider how to optimally structure messages in their archive. This limits the effectiveness and increases the time required to perform electronic discovery and support litigation or regulatory requests to retrieve archived messages.

Applying policies to e-mail prior to archiving is an effective solution for improving the effectiveness of inbox searches. For example, being able to segregate e-mail based on user type or business function into dedicated archives is one method that organizations are beginning to leverage. By separating messages by user type or business function, organizations can perform more targeted searches and return results in a more timely fashion. Electronic discovery and litigation support can also be enhanced by providing custom meta data extensions that align with business processes, organizational structure, or type of message to increase the speed and accuracy of searches.

Automated Systems E-mail
E-mail generated by automated systems such as transactional or customer relationship systems is another potential gap in current e-mail archiving strategies. This type of e-mail can account for up to 25% of all messages in many organizations. Because of their architectural requirements, many e-mail archiving solutions are unable to capture and retain messages generated and received by these systems. The operational benefits of these automated systems are significant, but organizations need to ensure they are able to capture and archive messages from these systems as part of their archiving strategy.

Messaging platforms that integrate with existing e-mail archiving systems allow organizations to extend their existing system to capture and archive messages generated by these automated systems as part of their archiving strategy. These platforms provide a centralized approach and a single archive, for both host-based and automated systems e-mail, to maintain compliance, discovery, and litigation support objectives without any performance or infrastructure impact to existing host-based e-mail operations.

E-mail Archiving Migration and Integration
With the ever-changing nature of today’s business and regulatory environments, organizations can face new challenges with their e-mail archiving requirements. Unfortunately, given their unique architectures and requirements, once these solutions are deployed, it is nearly impossible to change or migrate from one system to another. This means that as an organization’s compliance or regulatory requirements change, they are forced into making their existing solution meet the new requirements.

Merger and acquisition activities in the healthcare industry also create challenges in being able to integrate disparate archiving solutions to meet the requirements of the new organization. Fortunately, messaging platforms are available to help organizations change, migrate, and integrate e-mail archiving solutions.

Messaging platforms complement but don’t replace e-mail archiving solutions and allow organizations to migrate to the solution that best meets their current business and regulatory requirements. They provide seamless migration from one system to another, allowing organizations to centrally manage and control disparate archiving solutions and provide more consistency for compliance, discovery, and litigation support across disparate archiving solutions.

Future Proofing E-mail Archiving
The changing landscape of e-mail archiving and host-based e-mail systems, such as Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes, creates additional challenges when trying to map out a long-term e-mail archiving strategy. Many of the current e-mail archiving solutions require defined interfaces to the host e-mail systems to capture messages to archive. Over time, these interfaces can be changed or disappear completely from the host e-mail systems.

Such is the case with Microsoft’s Messaging Application Protocol Interface (MAPI). MAPI has been a standard interface that many e-mail archiving solutions have designed their products around to capture messages that are generated and received by Exchange. Unfortunately, Microsoft has already announced that MAPI will be phased out in future releases of Exchange. This means the existing e-mail archiving solutions designed around MAPI will need to be redesigned.

Existing users of these solutions may need to plan for costly upgrades to software and infrastructure to ensure these systems will be able to support upcoming changes. Forward-thinking organizations are beginning to realize that there is a different solution that reduces potential costs and risks around these future changes. These organizations are looking toward messaging platforms to extend their current e-mail archiving solutions by leveraging current standards, such as SMTP. This allows them to future proof their e-mail infrastructure by designing and deploying an archiving strategy that will work with future environmental changes.

Closing the Gaps
Today, e-mail is a major vehicle for healthcare organizations to communicate with members, partners, and other constituents. Securely capturing and retaining host-based e-mail with an e-mail archiving solution is no longer good enough to meet compliance and regulatory requirements.

Healthcare organizations need to consider a more centralized approach to help manage their messaging infrastructure and close existing gaps in their e-mail archiving strategy. Messaging platforms help healthcare organizations maintain compliance objectives while designing and deploying e-mail infrastructure that is designed for future environmental changes. They also provide a greater level of control, visibility, manageability, and extensibility to e-mail operations.

— Ken Horner is senior vice president of corporate development and strategy at BakBone Software.