For most organizations, e-mail serves as a primary mode of communication, and therefore likely contains information that must be preserved to comply with regulatory requirements. Because individual users have control over their inboxes, how can IT guarantee that important e-mail messages won't be lost — and if lost, how can individual messages be retrieved without restoring an entire server?
The first step is to educate everyone in your organization about e-mail use policies and retention requirements. Increased awareness makes for better users and can help you avoid problems before they occur. If critical e-mail messages are never deleted, then you won't have to worry about how to retrieve them.
Next, look to technology for help. Depending on the technical needs and legal requirements involved, the right solution will differ from organization to organization. Here are a few e-mail backup products that meet a variety of needs, budgets and levels of technical expertise:
If you're using Microsoft Exchange  2003 or higher, you already have a backup and recovery system through the Recovery Storage Groups feature. These groups are easy to set up, they don't require any additional hardware, and they allow you to not only restore purged items from individual mailboxes but also recover entire Exchange databases without an interruption in service.
Recovery Storage Groups don't work with public folders and aren't intended for restoring entire Exchange servers. But if you need to retrieve specific messages or mailboxes or restore individual Exchange databases, this is a great solution that's built right into Exchange.
Targeted at small to medium businesses, GFI MailArchiver  software provides e-mail backup and retrieval for Microsoft Exchange at a low cost per user.
Whereas Recovery Storage Groups is a feature used by system administrators, GFI MailArchiver includes features designed for both system administrators and end users.
For end users, GFI MailArchiver includes a connector for Microsoft Outlook . This provides access to e-mail messages regardless of where they are stored on the network, and allows users to retrieve deleted messages with a single click. This self-service feature greatly reduces the time system administrators must spend assisting users with restoring e-mail messages.
System administrators can configure the policies under which e-mail is archived and allowed to be deleted. GFI MailArchiver also ensures that archived e-mail is in its original form and has not been tampered with, which is important for legal compliance and e-discovery.
Barracuda Message Archiver  is a self-contained network appliance that provides e-mail archiving and retrieval for Exchange — and practically any other mail server — and includes a host of additional features to help organizations better manage their e-mail infrastructure. Message Archiver archives e-mail, imports e-mail from Exchange or other mail servers using standard mail protocols, imports local PST files from client computers, indexes e-mail messages for powerful searching and also supports configurable archiving and retention policies. Users can access old and deleted e-mail messages from a web browser.
Message Archiver can also be used as an SMTP relay, which allows organizations to capture outgoing e-mail for archiving before forwarding it to an outgoing mail server. Message Archiver also supports e-mail monitoring for policy compliance, ensures that archived messages cannot be altered and has features to support e-discovery and other legal compliance requirements.
Symantec Enterprise Vault  goes beyond e-mail archiving to support archiving of other types of content, such as Lotus Domino, Microsoft SharePoint and Windows file servers. This allows system administrators to index, search, tag and retrieve disparate types of content, such as SharePoint files, Microsoft Office documents and even instant messaging conversations, in addition to e-mail — all from a single, browser-based interface. Archiving policies that are configured within Enterprise Vault apply to all archived content regardless of type.
Enterprise Vault also consolidates Outlook PST files and Lotus Notes NSF files; allows users to view archived e-mail and restore deleted messages from Outlook, Lotus Notes, or a browser; and has robust e-discovery and legal compliance features, such as the ability to put legal holds on specific users or groups to prevent data from being modified or deleted.
Organizations large and small will benefit from an e-mail archiving solution. Regardless of the product you choose, archiving e-mail improves mail server performance by off-loading older messages and eases administration by giving users self-serve access to their archived and deleted messages. In addition, IT can use e-mail archiving tools to enforce retention policies, ensuring that your organization doesn't lose vital data and remains compliant with the regulations that affect your industry.