What you really need to know about email backups & archiving
by Scott Lewis
January 4, 2019

Email: We love it; we hate it; we don’t want it; but we need it. However, managing it can be difficult and costly. One of the biggest issues with email is that, as humans, we want to save everything because we have that sinking feeling that someday, for some reason, we might need that email or attachment.

The facts behind this trend are interesting. There are an estimated 246 billion emails sent every day. The average person gets about 131 emails per day, and the average employee will spend 13 hours per week dealing with emails.

It is estimated that more than 99.2 percent of saved emails will never be accessed, used or referenced again. This is precisely why, in the corporate world, the methodology used to help individuals and organizations manage, store and archive emails is such an important issue.

Common Email Mistakes

The Muse, which was named one of 2018’s Most Innovative Companies for its human resource services, lists the top three mistakes people make in the management of their email as:

  • Leaving email in your inbox—Based on a 2011 Princeton study, if your environment is cluttered, your brain has a hard time focusing on the tasks at hand. Clutter, even virtual clutter, will negatively affect your ability to process information. It will also make you more irritable, less productive and more likely to be easily distracted by other activities happening around you. Clear out the clutter. Make sure that you are deleting what needs to be deleted. Develop processes for storing relevant emails in a central repository for all client or user information. 
  • Deleting, archiving or filing everything—There are reasons to keep emails, especially in the corporate world where, in some cases, litigation or human resource issues can go back years. Handle it in the moment. It doesn’t take much time to think about what to do with a specific email once you have read it. Deal with it or file it. Saving it for later is not productive, so get rid of the junk. 
  • Using your inbox as a to-do list—Email systems are not designed to be long-term storage. Nor is your inbox designed to be used as your to-do list, which causes a time-management issue. When you are trying to manage a to-do list within your constantly changing inbox, your focus wanders from the things you need to get done to what is happening at the moment. Separate the to-do list from email, and this will help you stay focused on the important tasks at hand. 

Archiving vs. Backups

Archiving and backing up are two different functions that require different resources. A backup is used for operational recoveries. So, in the event of a file deletion, corrupted database or another immediate data loss, the data files can quickly be recovered.

Archiving, on the other hand, is long-term storage for files that shouldn’t be changed and are not typically used on a day-to-day basis, but instead are more of a historical record. Archiving is more about the process of searching and sorting data for a specific need and is meant for files that are not to be changed from the original.

If changes need to be made to an archived document, change the name or revision number instead of saving over the original document.

Let’s Talk Dollars

When you are talking about the differences between backups and archiving, in many cases, it comes down to dollars and cents. Historically, when companies archived, they would use some kind of tape storage method, and then assign that as a permanent record in a safe or underground vault. This methodology did save dollars over continuous backup because, following the archiving process, that data was removed and no longer backed up.

With cloud-based storage or electronic data storage in a safe, secure place, the cost of archiving data goes down drastically. Yet, it still allows you access to the flies for litigation or other reasons. Keep in mind, though, that even with electronic storage within your own network, drive space is finite. At some point, you will have to add drive space.

When considering the differences between backups and archiving, it’s easy to confuse the two and/or want to combine them. Make sure you are using the right tools for the right reasons, but keep in mind that your email system isn’t meant to be either of these. Backups are a snapshot of operational data, and archiving is a long-term storage methodology.

For more tips on email management, read Think Before You Click.