Rackspace launches cloud storage email archiving service

Rackspace Archiving, based on Rackspace's Cloud Files and Amazon's S3 cloud storage services, allows Rackspace hosted email customers to replicate message data into a cloud-based archive for long-term retention.

Rackspace Hosting Inc. is launching Rackspace Archiving, a new cloud-based email archiving service that will allow its hosted email customers to replicate message data into a cloud-based archive for quick recoveries and long-term retention.

Rackspace Archiving will copy all message data as it's created to two separate storage services for redundancy—Rackspace's own Cloud Files and Amazon's Simple Storage Service (S3). The service is available for Rackspace's Hosted Microsoft Exchange and Rackspace Email customers.

Kirk Averett, director of products in Rackspace's email and applications division, said the dual clouds are necessary "for customers concerned about having all their eggs in one basket." Cloud Files has redundancies, "but there are some folks regardless of what you tell them, [who] really want to make sure anything cloud based has full redundancy."

Rackspace is working with a partner, Sonian Inc., which currently offers a hosted archiving service. Sonian's software will index and archive all messages as soon as they come into the Rackspace email cloud. Averett acknowledged that many email and file archiving products send data to the archive only when it has aged out of production use, but Rackspace charges for both services according to mailbox rather than storage capacity so customers don't pay for double storage.

End users can delete email from their hosted inboxes with Rackspace. Averett said having the immediate copy stored to the archive will allow managers to have a single place to search a trail of all their employees' email or allow for single-message restores in case of an accidental deletion.

Asked if Rackspace plans to open this service up as a standalone offering for non-Rackspace email customers, as Rackspace eventually did with its Mosso cloud storage service (now Cloud Files), Averett was noncommittal. "We're open to the possibility, but it's not at all certain," he said.

"Typically, hosters 'try' an email management service on their existing customers first," said Brian Babineau, an analyst at Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG). "[They] see what the adoption is and then determine if they will have the economies of scale to offer it as a standalone."

Email archiving competitors such as Mimosa Systems Inc. and LiveOffice LLC have offered 'hybrid' services that leave some of the infrastructure at the customer site. "That's a lot of what's on the radar for us in the next 12 months or so," Rackspace's Averett said. "People want offerings across the spectrum—private cloud and public cloud, true SaaS [Storage as a Service]—that's something we're absolutely paying attention to as a company overall."

Rackspace customer Kimberlee Augustine, CEO at Austin, Texas-based accounting firm DMS & Associates Inc., said the archive is a welcome addition to the Rackspace Exchange service her company has been using for the last three years. Augustine said the immediate transfer of items to the archive is especially appealing.

"Everything in our company flows through email," she said. "The last thing you want to do is say to a client 'Sorry, I don't have that important document you sent.' If there's anything lost or misplaced, I need immediate access."

ESG's Babineau said it's unclear how much traction this cloud email archiving service will get as long as it requires users host email with Rackspace.

"Anyone hosting email should offer all email management services, and not everyone who offers hosted email archiving offers hosted email," he said. However, sending archival files to the cloud can be a less thorny decision than outsourcing the email application. "It's a tough decision—it's such a critical app. That's why the hybrid [approach] is a great idea, because you get the most recent stuff locally…and then offload [it to the cloud]."

Rackspace offers webmail email inboxes for $1 per month. A hosted Exchange mailbox is $12 per month, while the archive costs $3 per user per month for unlimited capacity and retention.

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