The business world has gradually undergone a change in perspective, with the cloud morphing from a frantic buzzword to a functional reality -- even in large organizations. But as these cloud services and products become ever-more available and functional, it’s still crucial to keep a strategic focus on the overarching goals of the organization’s information governance framework and objectives. The cloud, rather than an amorphous entity, actually offers a complex constellation of options that vary based on the combination of vendor capabilities and customer requirements.
But one needs not look far for business cloud success stories. There probably hasn’t been a larger development in that cloud email management space than the rollout and success of Microsoft’s Office 365 (O365). By combining the widely-used Exchange email platform, SharePoint collaboration, and Lync instant messaging, Microsoft has created a cloud software bundle that is frequently considered to be the most recent and most successful cloud venture. What has partly made O365’s impact so great is that a number of organizations small and large have felt comfortable enough with the native capabilities of O365 to try to manage their email without a typical 3rd party archiving system.
However, despite the increased native functionalities of O365, there still can be quite a bit of benefit derived from a solution that enhances O365’s native functionalities by providing a singular ultimate repository for content. For some, the native capabilities may be sufficient to meet business needs. However, larger or more litigious organizations would be well-advised to conduct due diligence on the capabilities of the native Office 365 product, and carefully examine possible holes or overlap in coverage. For the current product functionality, many of these effects are most evident in search, eDiscovery, and legal hold processes.
One of the most important native features added to O365 is the ability to leverage the Discovery Center for eDiscovery and legal hold. The Discovery Center allows for content from Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync to be searched across and put on legal hold. This feature is quite an improvement over other previous capabilities and allows the widely used SharePoint to be leveraged as well. However, this functionality does have its limitations. Because it is embedded in Office 365, it can only be used to search the Microsoft ecosystem. At maximum, that would include email plus attachments, SharePoint, and Lync. Often, organizations will have pertinent information in file shares or even previous versions of Exchange and other legacy email data. The ability to perform eDiscovery on those data types is not supported by O365.
Similarly, O365 is limited in its ability to conduct comprehensive enterprise-wide search. For organizations with around 10,000 or more users, O365 is unable to support an enterprise-wide search due to a cap on simultaneous mailbox searches. In this case, searches must be broken up into separate batches. Along the same lines, the number of keywords that can be used in a given query is also capped. When running multiple searches on concurrent information, O365 caps the number at 2, reducing efficiency. While these issues are rarely pressing at small companies, they can become problematic very quickly at large, heavily-litigated organizations. Financial institutions are the most in need of a supplement to O365, as it does not satisfy the fully comprehensive supervision and archiving requirements set forth in SEC 17a-4.
Even under effective management, O365’s native information governance tools are at risk of becoming just another silo, especially in a large enterprise environment. For a full-scale eDiscovery search, the data must be pulled from the multiple sources present in a company. And even if eDiscovery point solutions are present, there is no complete source to draw the information from. A solution that has the ability to enhance Office 365’s capabilities to archive emails, SharePoint, and Lync – in conjunction with other enterprise content such as file shares and social media -- would be the perfect match to provide a fully searchable platform for not only those data types, but the other non-Microsoft sources.
Rarely is anything in business IT one-size-fits-all. Consider the business’ long-range strategies for information governance, as well as how ongoing business requirements – such as records, legal, and compliance – fit into the big picture. For many organizations, native Office 365 may be a sufficient fit, especially with rolling updates and functionality additions. For others, there may be tricky gaps that would be better served by a supplemental archive or underlying governance product. Collect your stakeholders, and assemble the team… because the time to consider these governance issues in the cloud is now.