Literature Review on Email Archiving

A. Email Creation
B. Email as Record
C. Policy Design for Managing Emails
D. Policy Considerations
E. Email Archiving Standards
F. PST Approach
G. Issues with PST
H. Non-PST Approaches
I. Disaster Recovery
J. Conclusion

A. Email Creation [ Return Top ]

An absence of institutional guidance on creation practices perpetuates the perception that e-mail is a personal issue. Institutional guidance and good practice guides not only convey the message that email is a business tool, they also help ensure the creation of stylistically consistent messages (Pennock, 2006). Hence, having a guide would help to facilitate researchers in performing any discovery request should the need arises later. According to Pennock (2007), emails must be well-formed, well-managed (even sent items) and accessible. The important elements could include good creation or response practices (which would include inserting metadata, message formats, attachments, complying with house-style), good inbox management and compliance with organisational policy.

B. Email as Record [ Return Top ]

According to ‘Computer output as evidence consultation paper’ (Seng & Chakravarthi, 2003), section 3.102 under ‘Classes of electronic evidence’ says that the different types of electronic evidence ‘may be classified as business records, personal computer records and email and other Internet records’.

Although the NTU Research Policy and Procedures did not make specific mentions of email but it does say that responsible conduct of research ‘covers the obligations to maintain full and accurate records of research and their storage in NTU, both in hard copy and as electronic records’.

According to the Singapore Statement on Research Integrity, ‘researchers should keep clear, accurate records of all research in ways that will allow verification and replication of their work by others.’

However, not all email would have the same retention value. Not every department of the same organisation would also require the same email retention policy. Email retention policies should be customised according to the type of emails (Dayley, 2012).

In Harvard University, its guidelines say:

‘The value of an e-mail message is determined by its informational content. The length of time for which it is retained is based on its value to the University in conducting its business activities, complying with and fulfilling and ensuring its legal rights and obligations, fulfilling fiscal requirements, and in some cases documenting the history of the University.’

In ARMA International’s ‘Best practices for managing electronic messages’, it describes the universe of electronic messages as a wide range of information types and usually a subset of those messages is determined to comprise records. When managing emails as records, authentication would be an important aspect of consideration. Email records should also be managed from a record lifecycle approach. This would include creation, appraisal, classification, disposition and preservation.

C. Policy Design for Managing Emails [ Return Top ]

Effective email policy formulation requires a team approach involving multiple stakeholders, including representatives from management, legal, records management, archives, information technology, and other sectors of the organization (ARMA, 2012).

D. Policy Considerations [ Return Top ]

An email policy must address authenticity and authentication, security issues, compliance and legal hold requirements, employees’ appropriate use of the email system, confidentiality of information, organizational obligations to protect individual privacy, the need to use encryption, preservation concerns, and technological resources (ARMA, 2012).

E. Email Archiving Standards [ Return Top ]

It would be useful to refer to standards as approved practices especially at the initial stage of developing an email archiving program. General guidelines for establishing email archiving standards and procedures can be found in the following standards:

  • ANSI/ARMA 9-2004, Requirements for Managing Electronic Messages as Records
  • ANSI/ARMA TR2-2007, Procedures and Issues for Managing Electronic Messages as Records
  • ANSI/AIIM/ARMA TR48-2006, Revised Framework for the Integration of Electronic Document Management Systems and Electronic Records Management Systems
  • DoD 5015.02-STD, Electronic Records Management Software Applications Design Criteria Standard
  • ISO 15489-1:2001, Information and documentation – Records management – Part 1: General
  • ISO/TR 15489-2:2001, Information and documentation – Records management – Part 2: Guidelines
  • MoReq2: Model Requirements for the Management of Electronic Records

F. PST Approach [ Return Top ]

Based on a scan of randomly selected universities for the purpose of this environmental scan, it is observed that for those universities which are using PST files for email archiving purposes, a few have recommended keeping the email archive files on a server instead of their own individual devices. The following are some examples:Purdue University recommends their staff to save their email archive files to a network drive (such as their work or home directory) instead of the computer’s hard drive (Purdue University, 2013).University College London has a similar recommendation which is to save the PST in staff’s personal network drive ‘Z: drive’ rather than to any other location. “This is because your Z: drive is backed up each night.”University of Leicester recommends the PST be stored in staff’s personal Z: drive in a folder called Email Archives or the shared departmental X: drive.Yale University (2014) is recommending saving PST to a CD, DVD, USB disk or other file storage media so the data can be configured for use through another computer.We gathered that there are 3 common storage location options: storing in one’s own PC/laptop, an external hard disk and/or a network drive. The advantages and disadvantages are briefly described in the table below:

Storage Location of PST Pros Cons
a. Own PC/laptop • Fixed location
• Anti-virus software
• Back-up can be automated
• Low hardware/software cost
• Susceptible to damage due to disk failure, electrical surges or any other hazards
• Email records can be tampered with by owner
b. External hard disk • Low hardware cost
• Multiple copies of external hard disk is possible
• Offline access to data is possible
• Can be stored off-site
• Prone to loss, theft
• Prone to hard disk failure
• If stored off-site, more work involved to ensure regular backing-up
• Prone to virus attack (especially if accessed at different machines)
• Email records can be tampered with by owner
c. Network drive • Fixed location
• Anti-virus software
• Back-up can be automated
• Low hardware/software cost
• Lower risk of data loss, data corruption, theft
• Prone to being hacked
• Requires initial hardware & maintenance investment
• Offline access is not possible
• Email records can be tampered with by owner (depending on how the copying to the network drive is done)

G. Issues with PST [ Return Top ]

According to Cain (2012), personal email archives such as Microsoft Outlook Data files (or PST) are prone to corruption and are often not backed up. He later added that Microsoft does not support PSTs in a variety of circumstances, which creates data integrity concerns. It is difficult to apply conventional data winnowing techniques such as deleting items based on age, creating control issues. It is difficult to know what is in PSTs, creating e-discovery vulnerabilities. It can be very expensive to run e-discovery on PSTs due to their existence on personal and shared drives. One of the core reasons for PSTs – limited disk storage for email—has evaporated with the advent of large cloud email quotas and low-cost on-premises storage options. PSTs on shared drives can be ‘abandoned’ and lurk there for years creating identification and discovery concerns. (Cain, 2014).

H. Non-PST Approaches [ Return Top ]

There are universities which indicate that they are moving away from PST and are adopting or have adopted the ‘non-PST’ approaches. We found the following examples:

1. Microsoft’s Exchange Online Archiving

Oregon State University uses ‘Exchange Online Archiving’ to replace the use of ‘.pst’ file. This automatic archiving works via policies at the mailbox level, folder level or individual message level which determine frequency in which messages are moved to the archive (Oregon State University).

2. Symantec Enterprise Vault

Imperial College London, University of Leeds and McGill University are using the Symantec Enterprise Vault to archive staff email for more cost effective storage reasons. Imperial College London has a retention policy of at least 20 years for emails placed into the archive. University of Leeds cited one of the reasons to use an email archiving solution is “to eliminate the use of PST files which often reside on the user’s hard drive where they are not backed up, or on a networked drive where they are backed up but continue to grow.”

3. Integrated Mail Archiving System (HSM) with CommVault add-in on Outlook

University of Queensland has an ‘Integrated Mail Archiving System’ which migrates old email and attachments to a central archive as opposed to an un-replicated local archive. The current policy applied migrates all attachments greater than 10k in size and older than 60days from a user’s mailbox to a replicated location on back-end tier 3 storage.

4. Copying to project site email address to keep a copy of project emails

University of Cambridge provides an option for staff to create a project site email address for purpose of archive emails online. “Using the Email Archive tool, you can set up a mailing list for your CamTools site members. Each CamTools site can have its own email address. Email sent to the site email address is copied to all the members of a site. All messages sent to this email address are stored online, and can be searched using the CamTools Search tool.”

5. Records management system separate from email system

Harvard University uses a separate records management system. “If e-mail is to be preserved for a long period of time, it must be removed from the e-mail system and entered into a record keeping system – either as hard copy or in electronic format. E-mail is most effectively managed and stored in a records or content management system. As a general rule, the longer the message must be retained or the more it needs to be shared, the greater the need to remove it from the e-mail system and store it in some other manner – as hard copy, on the office’s network, or in an electronic management system.” (Harvard University)

We believe that there would be many more other types of examples of email archiving approaches hence the above list would just be a starting list.

According to Dayley (2014), the most used email archiving solutions include Symantec Enterprise Vault and HO Digital Safe. A few other popular ones include ProofPoint, MessageSolution and Mimecast. Examples of on-premises solutions are Symantec Enterprise Vault, HP Autonomy Consolidated Archive [ACA], and EMC Sourceone.

I. Disaster Recovery [ Return Top ]

Backups facilitate improved response to a disaster. However, backup policies, procedures, systems, and media shall not be a substitute for a records management program that includes the appropriate retention of messages with continuing value to the organization or messages deemed vital for business continuity (ARMA, 2012).

J. Conclusion [ Return Top ]

In this brief environmental scan, we have observed that there are some institutions which on one end archive (or backup) emails wholesale with hardly any selection while on the other end, some which would adhere judiciously to records management principles. Understanding the rights and obligations of the institution would help lay a useful foundation to the development of policies and guidelines in the initial stage.

By Goh Su  Nee (Senior Assistant Director) and Cheng Wei Yeow (Senior Librarian), Scholarly Communication Group, NTU Libraries.

References [ Return Top ]

  1. Naming conventions for emails
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    3. Email style guide. (Oct 2008). Retrieved from DePaul University website:
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  2. Email etiquette- Replying email, etc
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  3. Naming convention for electronic file/ folder
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  4. Developing an Email Policy
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  5. Email Archiving
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    2. Cain, M. W. (2014). Gartner on PSTs. Gartner [email dated 16-Jun-2014].
    3. Dayley, A. (2012). Best practices for using email archiving to eliminate PST and mailbox quota headaches. Gartner.
    4. Dayley, A. (2014). Gartner inquiry. Gartner [email dated 16-Jun-2014].
    5. Harvard Records Management Services. Email management: a guide for Harvard administrators.
    6. Imperial College London.
    7. NTU policy on research integrity and the responsible conduct of research. (2013). Retrieved from %20-%2014Nov2013 %20Clean%20Ver%20tm060314.pdf
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    12. University College London. How to archive emails.
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    15. University of Queensland. Integrated Mail Archiving System.
    16. Yale University (2014).