Email has dramatically increased worker productivity. Ever since it was introduced in 1974 by Ray Tomlinson as part of the development of ARPANET, email has grown exponentially. Today, with over 3 billion email user accounts worldwide, it is arguably the most popular software application in existence.

Email is Important but Data Backup Rates Are Low

However, organizations that regularly execute complete email data backups are few and far between. The unique characteristics of email and the low perceived cost of lost email explain the minimal backup rate. However, increasing legal and regulatory exposure may change that in the future.

It has been nearly 20 years since Google’s Gmail was launched. Today, adoption has exploded to about 1.5 billion accounts. This represents roughly 49% of the current email market. Though Google is primarily used by individuals, due to its ease of use and free price tag, small businesses and even some large organizations rely on Gmail.

The Blackberry, released in 2002, was the first mobile device to include the ability to send and receive email. Now, Apple’s iCloud Mail, delivered through mobile devices as well as notebooks, laptops, and desktops, has about 850 million users which represents about 28% of the email market.

In third place, in terms of market share, with about 400 million accounts, is Microsoft’s Outlook/M365 service. M365 is one of the world’s most popular Software as a Service (SaaS) applications. Microsoft leveraged its dominance in the corporate market with its Word, Excel, and PowerPoint franchise to pivot from its boxed Outlook email product to the cloud based M365 office productivity solution. This strategy has helped Microsoft’s Azure Public Cloud close the gap in competing with Amazon’s AWS service.

Email Services Provide Limited Backup and Recovery

Many email users depend on their email service provider to retain email copies. For example, it is estimated that 70% of M365 email clients rely on the default email retention provided by Microsoft. The percent of subscribers who use the standard retention provided by Google and Apple is even higher.

Most email services store emails for a set time or until a certain amount of storage has been used. Whether the service retains emails for a defined period or until an amount of memory has been used, when thresholds are exceeded, emails will be deleted. Unless emails are copied to long-term storage, they will not be retrievable after the backup period expires or the storage capacity is exceeded.

If a proper backup has not been done, it will not be possible to recover emails that are accidentally deleted. It will also not be possible to recover earlier versions of an email if it has been edited over time. Proper email backup ensures that earlier versions and accidentally deleted emails can be recovered.

Emails Can Be Evidence in Legal Disputes

Companies are legally obligated to keep archives of all business critical and sensitive information. It is estimated that 75% of all business critical and sensitive information resides in company emails. As the popularity of email has increased so has its use in settling legal matters. Emails may be used to establish legal contracts. They may also be brought into court as evidence. Electronic Discovery or eDiscovery is a growing part of many law practices. Therefore, companies of all sizes must be sure they have developed an appropriate data retention plan to assure they can retrieve the documents they need, including emails, to protect their company’s interests in court.

Regulatory compliance also requires, in a growing number of instances, the ability to retrieve email. For example, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 requires all publicly-held companies, and the accountants they employ, to store emails for at least 5 years.

Email differs from other applications with respect to data backup and recovery. Though it may be very important to be able to retrieve an archived email to respond to a corporate, regulatory, or legal request, a quick recovery may not be necessary. Unlike a database application that must be continuously updated for a company’s operations to function properly, the response to a request for an archived email can take days or weeks without causing a lot of problems.

CAPS uses Veeam’s powerful data backup and recovery tools to provide long term offsite data storage and cost-effective recovery of emails and other critical data. Please contact us for a free review of your current email backup practices.