Archived mail and Office 365 litigation hold

Outlook Archives: AutoArchiving And Archive.PST Files
Outlook Archives: Office 365 Personal Archives (And The Devil In The Details)

There are two other things to mention briefly about different ways to archive your Outlook mailbox.

Litigation Hold

I have been asked whether it’s possible to prevent employees from deleting or changing anything in their mail folders. Yes – but . . .

Office 365 has plans that permit a mailbox to be put on “litigation hold.” If a business or law firm is sued in a situation where evidence must be preserved, the litigation hold ensures that no messages ever disappear completely. Messages can be viewed in their original state even if an employee accidentally or maliciously deletes a message or changes it – altering the subject line or the date received, for example.

This is not a tool for an employer who wants to casually rummage through employee mailboxes. It is a tool for a specific need, when the expense and difficulty are legally required. There is detailed information about Office 365 Litigation Hold in this article.

A couple of things to make the point:

  -  The litigation hold is only available with the Exchange Online E2 plan, which is part of the Office 365 E3 and E4 plans. Those are not the plans chosen most often by very small businesses. It would require upgrading E1 licenses, and it is simply unavailable to P1 subscribers.

  -  When a mailbox is on litigation hold, an employee can modify or delete messages freely. Behind the scenes, messages are stored in their original form in special folders in Recoverable Items, the place you didn’t know about that normally holds items for 14 days after they are removed from Deleted Items. When a litigation hold is in effect, the Recoverable Items folder is not purged. Only administrators can access those original versions of messages that the employee modified or deleted.

  -  Searching multiple mailboxes in this context is very specialized work. “Discovery administrators” can run searches in the Office 365/Exchange control panel and view the results in a Discovery Mailbox. Large law firms with an IT staff might do this sort of thing in-house but I”d expect small firms to engage electronic discovery specialists.

Third-Party Archiving

There are many third-party products for archiving Exchange mailboxes, with a wide variety of features and requirements and prices. GFI MailArchiver, for example, sets up a separate database to hold a searchable copy of everything going in and out of company mailboxes. A very small business might find it daunting to have to purchase and license a separate server for the archive, and would likely be put off by monthly fees that far exceed the cost of the Office 365 mailbox itself.

Symantec acquired LiveOffice in January 2012 and has become one of the leading providers of cloud-based Exchange archives. LiveOffice looks like it would meet all the requirements for legal holds and e-discovery, plus data protection, regulatory compliance, and more. LiveOffice can be deeply integrated into onsite Exchange Servers or Office 365 online mailboxes.

It’s a big, complex platform, also not something that would be done casually by a small business that doesn’t have onsite Exchange administrators. Consider it to be telling that LiveOffice is the kind of service that doesn’t put prices on the web site, just a phone number to call for sales or a referral to trained consultants.

Happy archiving!

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