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Selecting the Right Software

Right now, archiving software is in the spring of its existence. In other words, archiving software requirements are evolving so rapidly that there’s no clear consensus on what customers want. As a result, archiving vendors, who are springing up like mushrooms, have taken a wide variety of approaches to archiving, and products tend to be very different.

Which means you’ve got a lot of choices, but you’ve got to look carefully to see which products really meet your needs.

"You need to understand what your real requirements are," says Mehta. "Do you want to make your mailboxes smaller and solve IT problems, do you want to archive to support compliance and searching, or do you want to do both?"

The first element of good fit is emphasis. Archiving software varies considerably in what it considers most important. Some programs are designed to aid compliance. Others are more about managing storage. Very few of them are all one thing or the other, but they differ in the features they offer to support each function.

Just how close that fit needs to be depends in large part on the volume of messages handled. Generally speaking, the higher the volume of your messaging traffic, the more time and effort you’ll need to spend on getting the right fit from your software.

In general, Mehta says, you want to accomplish all this control with minimum change in user behavior. "If [the software] requires changing user behavior, that’s a hard thing to do," Mehta says.

Compliance is the other part of the equation. If you’re in a highly regulated industry, you may need to meet extremely specific criteria, no matter what the volume of messages.

Security is also an important consideration. The messages in those archives contain some of the most sensitive information your enterprise produces, and it’s vital to protect that data.

In even a medium-sized company, the choice of an archiving program is likely to be too important to be left to the Windows administrators. At the very least, you need to consult with your legal department about regulatory and discovery requirements for message retention, and you’ll probably end up getting input from records management, accounting, and other departments as well. Large enterprises usually end up setting up a multi-department committee to hammer out the requirements for archiving, as the first step in selecting the right archiving software.

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