The benefits of the cloud vs on-premise email archiving (Whitepaper)

  1.      Executive summary

The aim of archiving email solutions is to help organizations address various concerns, such as recovering deleted email messages, providing information to courts in case of an e-discovery hearing, complying with regulations requiring installation of email archiving software.

The traditional solution to these concerns is the use of on-premise email archiving. While on-premise email archiving is widely used today, there has been a recent increase in the number of organizations using cloud-based email archiving. According to a prediction made by Microsoft, 50% of the present on-premise mailboxes will be in a cloud-based environment by 2014.

The goal of this whitepaper is to help organizations in deciding whether to use cloud-based email archiving or on-premise email archiving. In order to accomplish this goal, the advantages of cloud-based (Section 2) and on-premise email (Section 3) archiving are examined. Finally, a conclusion is drawn (Section 4).

2. Advantages of cloud-based email archiving

Cloud-based email archiving has eight main advantages compared to on-premise email archiving. These advantages are (1) guaranteed availability, (2) improved security, (3) low costs, (4) quick set-up, (5) access from anywhere, (6) efficient storage management, (7) regulatory compliance, and (8) power savings. The next subsections discuss in detail these eight advantages.

2.1 Guaranteed availability

On-premise email archiving systems have on average 40 hours downtime per year. In contrast, most cloud-based archiving systems guarantee 99.9% availability.

2.2 Improved security

Cloud-based e-mail archiving offers better security than on-premise archiving because of six reasons. They are described below.

  • A credible provider of cloud email archiving use secure data centers tiered with an ISO27001 accreditation in data security. ISO27001 guarantees that the data in the cloud are secure.
  • The data centers used for providing cloud-based archiving are operated by highly qualified security administrators.
  • Cloud-based email archiving removes single point of failure. This is because messages are stored at fully redundant, secure off-site locations.
  • Most providers of cloud-based e-mail archiving take daily data backups for incident recovery.
  • Most providers of cloud-based e-mail archiving are equipped with the latest anti-spam programs.
  • Most providers of cloud-based e-mail archiving are equipped with the latest anti-virus programs.

2.3 Low costs

As known, the price of setting up and operating an on-premise email archiving system is quite high. This is because the company using such a system needs to pay for servers, racks, backups, security, and salaries to IT staff. In addition, when setting up and operating an on-premise email archiving system, unexpected costs may arise.

However, when a person uses cloud-based email archiving, he/she has to pay only a predicable monthly cost for the service. The cost for the service will include support and back up.

The Kenmar Group, an investment firm that has 50 employees located in offices from the United States to the United Kingdom and Singapore, chose a cloud-based archiving because this approach did not require a significant up-front investment for hardware and software licenses.


U.S. Service administration became the First Federal Agency to Move to cloud-based email archiving. The agency states that using cloud-based emails will reduce inefficiencies and lower costs by 50 percent.


With regard to the benefits of cloud-based services, UK Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries Ed Vaizey stated that “Access to the networked resources provided by ‘clouds’ enables companies to enter markets without having to meet the capital costs of building their own computer infrastructure… What they get instead is a sort of ‘pay-as-you-go’ service tailored to their specific requirements. This is especially significant today”.


2.4 Quick set-up

The process of setting-up the necessary hardware and software required for on-premise email archiving usually takes weeks. Conversely, setting-up and running cloud-based email archiving takes less than 24 hours. This time period includes the set up of new email accounts, creation of new email addresses (if necessary), and transfer of data.

2.5 Access from anywhere

On-premise email archiving may reduce remote user productivity levels because it requires the VPN to access email. In some cases, the VPN may decrease the speed of the connection. Reversely, because cloud-based email archiving does not require the use of VPN, it guarantees quick and easy access to email via Outlook.

The Scottish law firm MacRoberts uses cloud-based email archiving. IT manager, Robert Crichton, says that one of the benefits of this approach is that it allows the firm’s 300 users to access the archive from anywhere by using a web tool.


2.6 Efficient storage management

Most credible providers of cloud-based email archiving offer unlimited storage and rapid search. Moreover, such providers usually offer retrieval that takes only a few seconds.

James Knapp, CTO of Butterfield Bank Cayman, says that cloud-based email archiving allowed his organization to quickly and easily retrieve emails. In comparison, on-premises archiving used before were unable to search or select specific messages.


Tim Hyman, Head of IT at UK firm Taylor Wessing, states that cloud-based email archiving allows offloading all the hassle of capacity planning without sacrificing any of the control.


2.7 Regulatory compliance

At present, most providers of cloud-based email archiving comply with the increased number of Internet-related regulations. This is because the providers adapt their services to the amendments of the legislative framework. Consequently, the use of cloud-based email archiving is an easy way to ensure regulatory compliance.

It should be noted that, if a company uses on-premise email archiving, its corporate offices bear direct responsibility for implementing data protection measures. Depending on the location, the officers need to ensure compliance with legal acts, such as: Sarbanes-Oxley Act, Security Exchange Commission rules, GLBA, HIPAA, Companies Act Combined Code, EuroSOX, Financial Services and Markets Act 200, Data Protection Act, Freedom of Information act.

In 2002, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission fined five firms a total of $8.25 million for not complying with their obligations to monitor and capturing their e-mail traffic.


2.8 Electronic discovery

A more recent incentive for the use of messaging archiving is electronic discovery. One source estimates that, at present, 75% of all discovery orders specify email records as part of the discoverable content.

In order to comply with the court orders requiring electronic discovery, organizations must be able to guarantee the storage of the email content and quickly send the required content to the courts.

Cloud-based email archiving allows 100% capturing and indexing of all internal and Internet email and makes that email promptly discoverable through an easy-to-use web user interface. Often, access to the Search and Discovery Interface can also be given to an external legal counsel through login provisioning.

2.9 Power Savings

Another important advantage of the cloud model is the power savings that can be achieved. For instance, a security appliance that consumes 450 watts of power and assuming electricity cost of $0.12 per kilowatt-hour will cost an organization $473 per year to operate. Moreover, the cooling of the floor space necessary to support the on-premise infrastructure can also cost a significant amount of money.

It should be also pointed out that, in addition to reducing costs, the cloud-based email archiving contributes to “green” computing initiatives aiming at maximizing energy efficiency.

3. Advantages of on-premise email archiving

On-premise email archiving has three main advantages compared to cloud-based email archiving, namely, (1) customization, (2) speed of operation, and (3) total control. These three advantages are described below.

3.1 Customization 

On-premise email archiving allows complete freedom to customize the service to the specifications of the particular organization. For instance, customization can be done by installing various plugins. It should be noted, however, that the plugins can be difficult to update. This is because, in some cases, there are no longer supported.

3.2 Speed of operation

In-house mail server ensures an average minimum connection of 100Mbs to each PC. However, it should be pointed out that this speed is guaranteed only for internal connections.  All other connections will have restricted speed because they depend entirely on the available upload capacity of the Internet connection. Here, it is worth mentioning that cloud-based email archiving guarantees consistent user experience irrespectively of location or connection.

3.3 Total control

On-premise email archiving allows complete control on the email management and use. Complete control means that different areas of the organization can be divided into separate mailbox databases. The advantage of this division is that, in case of a data recovery situation, the organization can prioritise the restoration of the databases. For instance, the management email can be restored before sales email.

However, it should be noted that, due to daily backups and multi-redundant data centers, it is unlikely that providers of cloud-based email archiving will experience a serious downtime. Consequently, the total control that on-premise email archiving allows cannot be regarded as an important advantage.

4. Conclusion  

When deciding whether to use cloud-based or on-premise email archiving, their advantages and disadvantages need to be considered. In this regard, the table below can be very helpful because it provides an overview of the advantages and disadvantages of the two types of archiving.



Cloud-based email archiving

On-premise email archiving





Guaranteed availability Cannot be customized completely Customization The availability is not guaranteed
Improved security Slower speed (server offset) Fast speed (server onsite) The security can be weak
Low costs Lack of complete control Total control The costs can be high; Unexpected costs may arise
Quick set-up Slow set-up
Access from anywhere Slow remote connectivity
Efficient storage management The storage capacity is often limited; scalability is  complicated and expensive
An easy way to ensure regulatory compliance There is a need to adapt on-premise email archiving software to the amendments of the legislative framework
Guaranteed electronic discovery Electronic discovery may be restricted
Power savings Energy costs


On the basis of the analysis provided in this whitepaper, it can be concluded that cloud-based email archiving offers a range of benefits that can help an organization to meet the full range of its business requirements and also satisfy regulatory requirements. Certainly, the organizations concerned about their archiving practices need to evaluate cloud archiving as a secure, viable, and cost-effective solution that can perfectly meet their archiving and compliance needs.

Photo: Lucian Savluc,





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