Beware being locked in – on your own premises!

Posted by Darwin Lee on Aug 02, 2019 Last updated Apr 14, 2023

on premises archive

A while back we published a white paper about how to avoid vendor lock-in when migrating email records to a cloud-based platform.

Given that SaaS models are all about recurring revenues, it’s understandable that you might be expected to pay to get a mass extraction of your data when you decide to move on.

Extraction fees ranging between $20 a GB (at the 1TB level) down to 4$ per GB (at the 30TB level) are levied by one leading hosted email archive vendor.

We, have, however, recently encountered a client that risked being locked-in by their on-premises archive.

The client in question planned to migrate to Office 365 but had not budgeted to migrate their archived data.  The incumbent on-premises archive provider, however, offered an ‘cost-effective’ alternative:

“Instead of migrating your archives to Office 365, you can simply upgrade to our latest version, and any email shortcuts you migrate to Office 365 will work across the network.”

This sounds great in theory – but here’s the rub:

Whilst there may be budgetary benefits of deferring a migration, and of course, your legacy archives may eventually ‘age off in place’, the reality is that by maintaining your archives on premises, you may get ‘stung’ later down the track:

Here’s 5 reasons why you might want to re-think keeping legacy archives on-premises:

1. Updates to your archive software may make a future extraction challenging

We’ve recently encountered situations where significant changes were made to the database schema of an archive with the application of an ‘upgrade’.

Whilst it’s understandable that on-premises archive vendors must ‘up their game’ in response to the inevitable drift to the cloud, such major changes might also serve to lock in your data.

This may make it difficult for you to find a solution that is able to support extractions from your ‘updated archive’ if you decide to move at a later date.

Conversely, not updating your archive (i.e. saving costs by letting your archive support and maintenance lapse) may risk not being supported by your archive vendor if something suddenly stops working.   For example, to receive support from Veritas you currently need to be on EV V12.

2. It’s likely to cost you more than you anticipate to keep your on-premises archive viable.

We recently encountered an organization that had migrated its staff to Office 365, but that still had over 130 TBs of journaled email in an on-premises archive.

Owing to the amount of data to be moved they had deferred a migration of their journal archive.  This was fair enough, however, it was starting to take upwards of two weeks for the IT team to perform eDiscovery searches on behalf of the legal team.

Given the hefty search infrastructure required to do eDiscovery, improving search times would have meant significant investment.  Combined with ongoing maintenance renewals and the overheads of managing archive backups, the option of using Transvault to migrate its journals (in this case, into Azure) made both financial and business sense.

3. Your on-premises archive or the storage it sits on may reach end of life (or set on fire).

Archive platforms have historically had a chequered lifecycle, with many platforms being acquired by different vendors: DEC’s Enterprise Vault went to Compaq, then to KVS, to Veritas, to Symantec and then back to Veritas.  AfterMail went to Quest, to Dell and then back to Quest.  EDUCOM’s EAS went to ZANTAZ, to Autonomy, to HP, finally to Capax. This lack of stability and potential ‘lack of focus’ by the acquiring company on continuing to develop and support your archive, means you may find that ongoing, quality support for your archive is at risk.  Although you may think your legacy archive is static, the systems and users that need to access it are evolving all the time.

Similarly, the storage hardware you elect to use may have a limited shelf-life.  A great case in point being the popular WORM option provided by EMC Centera, which is now end of life (and for which we have had many extraction requests).

Read our article for more information on what to do when your email archive goes end of life.

The other consideration is that the cloud offers business continuity benefits.

For example, for a leading London-based economics consulting firm, the vulnerability of its on-premises archives was brought into sharp focus the when a fire broke out close to the company’s offices. This precipitated the use of Transvault to migrate their email records into the cloud.

4. Your IT team may get sucked into doing eDiscovery work

Having a separate (additional) on-premises archive to search through can massively extend the time and complexity involved responding to any eDiscovery or business investigation requests.

If you’ve been involved in doing extensive searching across your legacy archive, you’ll know that working with the eDiscovery services in old-school archives tends to require a lot of technical hand-holding.

As per the earlier example, staff members in the IT team were tied up for 2 weeks at a time doing searches on behalf the legal department. 

By migrating your archives to Office 365, you have the benefit of putting all your eDiscovery activity into one place.  And, thanks to Microsoft’s ongoing efforts to make its security and compliance capabilities more easily managed by non-technical staff, you can get to shift the responsibility, inconvenience, and let’s face it, uncomfortable position of carrying out searches on behalf of the legal department.

5.  You’ll have two places in which to manage retention (and disposition)

Most email archive applications offer lifecycle management. However, in our experience, IT teams are hesitant to press the ‘delete button’ when emails go past their ‘expiry date’.

By moving the contents of your archive into Office 365, you will benefit from having a one-stop-shop for managing data governance.  This is combined with the appeal of handing the responsibility for specifying retention policies and executing on deletions over to your legal team or records managers!

Again, the evolving capabilities offered by Microsoft in this area, especially in relation to retention policies, will typically outstrip the capabilities of most on-premises archive vendors, enabling you to respond to evolving legislation, such as the GDPR.

In summary, by keeping your archive on-premises you could be storing up trouble.

If you need to retain emails for a certain number of years for business or legal reasons, the overheads of maintaining a performant and reliable on-premises environment, including archive, database and search servers, as well as the underlying storage and backup, will start to escalate.

Deferring the migration of your legacy email records, will rapidly become, as they say, a false economy. 

Escape now, while you still can!