Types of Email Archiving and How to Retrieve Them 

Almost all businesses need the ability to research emails to reconstruct actions and responses to clients and employees. Some have the additional requirement of email archiving solutions for legal purposes, and the period of archiving emails may be spelled out in legislation. A good archiving system should be simple and easy to search while secure.

What Does it Mean to Archive an Email?

Archiving an email saves it for future retrieval and reference. Archives can be cloud-based or on a hard drive.

Some businesses receive hundreds or thousands of emails each day. By archiving them by categories, a business preserves the record of the interaction (whether with a customer, an employee, a leaseholder, or a subcontractor).

Categories of archived emails may include:

  • Future prospects
  • Human resources records (sick days, sales goals, assignments)
  • Product or service issues
  • Regulatory checkups
  • Project status updates

What Does Archiving an Email Do?

By archiving, an email that a business marks as important is saved for a specified period of time and made accessible for future reference. Reasons a company or individual archives emails include:

  • Maintaining the ability to reconstruct customer accounts if records are lost or if a server is down.
  • Compliance with legal requirements for record retention in your industry.
  • Compliance with IRS requirements to save financial records for tax return records.
  • Protection in the case of a lawsuit by a current or past employee.
  • For product warranties or service contracts.

In addition, archiving emails takes them out of the day-to-day cycle of an employee’s work, allowing them to focus on current tasks without the distraction of a cluttered inbox. But what does it mean to archive an email? 

This means that the data the email contains is safe, the interaction can be retrieved, and the record is useful enough to keep. Email archiving can also facilitate data storage audits by IT professionals who evaluate the company’s systems, efficiency, and security.

Email Archiving Importance

The security of business records is paramount these days as everyone is vulnerable at some level to phishing attacks and other attempts to steal company information, grab customer data, or hold company systems for ransom.

What does archiving an email do? Archived emails that are secure and stored separately from everyday correspondence can help restore files that are lost temporarily or permanently to cyber attacks, as well as recreate customer relationships and track orders when necessary.

If a person contacts your business with a question, you don’t want to delete their information forever; instead, you may archive it for marketing purposes – or even use it to analyze the functionality and effectiveness of your website and marketing materials. Similarly, a good email archiving system will filter out spam emails so they don’t get archived alongside legitimate contacts.

What Does Archiving An Email Do

Space Management

Companies are outsourcing more of their functions now, including archiving. If another business runs the right kind of secure cloud storage operation, it’s an opportunity to upload files to an archive there and free up space on servers. At the same time, all employees should be trained to categorize emails prior to storage so they are searchable by keyword or category.

Good email archiving solutions provide easy searches, so any employee will know how to retrieve archived emails and will not lose productivity waiting for someone else to do it.

E-Discovery and Legal Compliance

Litigation of any sort can require a business to spend significant time digging through emails to be ready for a court case months in advance. If the business’s archive or other storage is not well organized and results in missed files, it could be costly. Additionally, opposing counsel may exploit the company’s poor record-keeping systems to prove to a judge that their client has been wronged through negligence or that the company is incompetent.

Legal compliance for archiving consists of laws that cover the industry. Types of industries that must archive records include:

  • Medical offices for HIPAA compliance
  • Accountants for tax purposes
  • Law firms for the appeals process
  • Companies that offer warranties
  • Schools that have student and family information
  • Companies are potentially affected by product recalls

Any company considering a subcontractor for records backup should consult a business attorney or other specialist who knows what it means to archive an email and can describe the archive requirements and steps necessary for that industry, including the length of time records must be kept.

In addition to finding the right email archiving solution for its needs, the company should create a clear statement of intent that lays out the reasons, the process, the protections, and the retrieval methods related to retaining sensitive records. All employees who handle such records should be updated on the system status and any changes periodically.

Data Protection and Security

Email archiving is about more than space management. Any type of record archive must meet the highest possible standard for data protection and security, or the record keeper may be liable for any breaches. This includes local laws for data security as well as the international standard that applies to any customer (compliance in Europe is particularly stringent). Companies that fail to complete due diligence in securing customer data, anonymizing, and keeping only what’s completely necessary may be liable for damages if the data is breached and sensitive information is leaked.

Whether stored in a company’s onsite servers or in a cloud provided by a subcontractor, email encryption should be used, and the owner should hold the key, not the subcontractor/software provider. The company should also conduct periodic audits of the email archive to ensure data safety and security compliance.

If using open-source email archiving solutions, the company should realize that the low cost and customizable nature may be paired with the potential for glitches and security gaps.

Disaster Recovery

Natural and man-made disasters occasionally strike businesses, ruining records. As climate change creates unforeseen weather patterns and causes more frequent flooding in some coastal cities, protecting documentation becomes more important. 

So what does archiving an email do? An archive provides a backup system that can save the company expensive downtime. If your company is located in a likely disaster zone, you should address this issue specifically with the hardware, software, or service provider you use to archive emails. You’ll want to know how to retrieve archived emails as soon as possible after an event so that you can prevent a lot of lost business days.

What Does Archiving An Email Do

Email Archiving in Records-Keeping

Companies have to keep a variety of records as proof of compliance with state and national regulations, taxes, and the privacy of employees’ information. An office manager is usually responsible for gathering the necessary information, if not making reports that track the completeness and steps in compliance. With a few training seminars, that person may also serve as the email archivist, depending on the system the company chooses to use. They can also train others on how to retrieve archived emails and use them to achieve company goals.

Types of Email Archiving

The exponential growth of email communication within organizations necessitates the implementation of reliable email archiving solutions. Email archiving software facilitates the retrieval, preservation, and legal defensibility of electronic mail. There are a few primary classifications of email archiving. Understanding these distinctions empowers organizations to select the most appropriate solution for their specific needs.

Server-side Email Archiving

This is the most common form of email archiving, which comes with major software brands like Google Suite or Microsoft. The archiving function is automatic, leaving it up to the customer to personalize its function, such as setting the amount of time the data is saved.

Client-Side Email Archiving

POP3 mailbox servers used to be common for businesses, but they’re being overtaken in popularity by IMAP servers. POP3 retains a copy of the email on their server, which is then available offline. That function is overshadowed by IMAP’s email availability to many users, such as on portable devices. POP3 client-side archiving doesn’t allow multiple users to access emails. Like open-source email archiving, client-side email archiving like POP3 is still used by some companies but is fading from popularity due to functionality.

On-Premise Email Archiving

It’s possible to schedule automated backups of necessary emails. An on-site archive should be kept on a server that’s separate from the company’s day-to-day business. Email accounts should be audited periodically to ensure the archive function is retaining and properly cataloging saved emails.

Cloud-Based Email Archiving

If your company uses cloud-based email archiving software, cloud archiving is likely to be available if not part of the package you’re already using. Cloud storage is virtual and accessible from anywhere you can log onto your company apps and files. This makes such a storage solution perfect for small businesses that are geographically diverse and for people who work from home or travel for work.

Open Source Email Archiving Or Paid Solutions

Cost can be a factor in choosing a method of archiving email, but companies must evaluate the risks of self-designed open-source email archiving against the benefits of a paid solution. Open source is generally free software code that can be altered to suit a business’s needs. A paid email archiving system is generally software provided by a third party, but it’s important to bake in an appropriate level of data security that will prevent the mishandling of customer information.

How to Retrieve Archived Emails?

Retrieving archived emails should be as simple as deciding which category of email is needed and executing a sort by category. Email lookup may also be used to find the complete history of a company or an individual’s interaction with the company.


There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a method of email archiving. Decision-makers have to weigh costs against the availability of employees to manage a self-designed system. Compliance with legal reporting requirements is only one aspect of creating, administering, securing, and using an email archiving system.


How Does Email Archiving Impact Storage Costs?

Data can be stored inexpensively, but companies must pay attention to security, including auditing information retained to ensure compliance with privacy laws. The cost of email archiving depends on the solution the company chooses, whether on-site and self-administered or a cloud service provider.

Can Archived Emails be Accessed Remotely?

Archived emails may be accessible remotely, depending on the system used. If the information is too sensitive to be connected to the internet, then they may require a person to be physically in the office in order to use a location-based archive.

What Emails Should be Archived, And For How Long?

The length of time that emails should be archived and retained depends on the legal requirements of the industry concerned. In addition, some states have data privacy regulations (as does Europe) that restrict the retention of data pertaining to individuals for any length of time. Publicly traded companies affected by Sarbanes-Oxley must retain records for 7 years; schools affected by FERPA regulations must retain records for 5 years.

Can Email Archiving Integrate With Other Systems?

Certain email archiving systems may be integrated with marketing, human resources, or accounting software to get the highest return on an archive investment. Much depends on the email archiving solutions, quality of the systems and the ability to customize them.