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Journaling in Office 365 – Your Guide to Getting Started and What Makes Office 365 Different

Before we touch upon the why’s, how’s, and what’s of journaling, let’s define it.  Then we’ll explore what makes the Office 365 Journal process different and some of the major advantages.

Journaling is the ability to record all email communications, in an organization, for use in the organization’s email retention or archival strategy. To meet an increasing number of regulatory and compliance requirements, many organizations must maintain records of communications that occur when employees perform daily business tasks.

While the Office 365 Journal process or other journaling processes may not be required by a specific regulation, many organizations use them to achieve compliance given the ability to journal all classes of data. So, when you journal messages, you’re sending copies of messages that come in and out of your environment to a separate mailbox or feed, independent of the delivery to the intended mailbox. This ensures that your organization will have a copy of any message, regardless of what the end user does with it. In combination with third-party on premises or Cloud services, it’s a powerful mechanism for maintaining compliance under most federal regulations, or just as a backup to provide another copy of a message for future restoration purposes.

mailbox to represent office 365 journaling

When you enable journaling, you need to set a destination for the messages and this is typically a mailbox. Given that this mailbox will now get a copy of every message sent and received, it’s going to fill up quickly! To counteract this, companies typically deploy one of these:

  1. An on premises third-party email archive solution to continually archive content in the journal mailbox by removing it from that mailbox and storing it in the archive, or
  2. Sign up for a third-party proprietary archive servicethat would sit just outside the organization and trap messages coming in and out of the organization removing the need to enable journaling and completely off-loads it to this third-party service provider.

When you Journal in Office 365, the traditional method of journaling no longer exists. Office 365 has eliminated the ability to journal to a separate mailbox. The out-of-the-box solution is to enable Legal Hold across the entire tenant. This can prove problematic, if putting everything on Legal Hold is an issue for how you handle your policies and eDiscovery requests. It can also throw a wrench into retention policies that will force you to keep everything, regardless of what those retention policies are set to. To use Advanced eDiscovery in Office 365, it will require E5 licensing, which is the most expensive licensing plan in Office 365.  (Here’s an article from Microsoft about the importance of Journaling)

There are three ways Journaling in Office 365 changes the way you journal:

  1. No Journal Mailbox – with Office 365, the concept of journaling has changed as the service will not allow you to enable an Office 365 journal mailbox.
  2. Legal Holds– Microsoft’s answer to this is to put your entire tenant on what’s called “Legal Hold”. The key difference is that you are no longer dealing with multiple copies of the same message, one in the user’s mailbox and one in the journal, but you can still allow your end users to interact with their messages as they see fit and as they could previously. When a user deletes messages, it appears to be gone to them, but they end up in a hidden folder, and thus, still accessible to search requests.
  3. Costs and Licensing – The standard Office 365 Journal process for addressing the journaling requirement can work for some organizations and is cost effective because you are already using mailboxes to store this content, so it’s essentially free. However, to get the robust search functionality requires E5-level licensing, which can get expensive!

When you enable journaling, you need to set a destination for the messages and this is typically a mailbox. Given that this mailbox will now get a copy of every message sent and received, it’s going to fill up quickly! To counteract this, companies typically deploy the following:

  1. On premise third-party archives to continually archive content in the journal mailbox by removing it from that mailbox and storing it in the archive.
  2. Sign up for third-party proprietary archive services that would sit just outside the organization and trap messages coming in and out of the organization. This removes the need to enable journaling and completely off-loads it to this third-party service provider.
  3. Enable “Legal Hold” across the entire tenant, if on Office 365.
Stuffed mailbox to represent Office 365 journaling solutions

On premise third-party archives require that all content is indexed, and as time goes on, this can result in more infrastructure spend to keep up with the service level required. Your level of maintenance of an on-premise solution grows over time. If you want to pull your journal data out of a third-party archive, it will require third-party migration tools that can be very expensive. For those thinking of moving to Journaling in Office 365 it could pose a significant challenge.

Third-party proprietary archive services require contractual commitments to use their services. If you want to pull your data out of their platform, then be prepared to pay a high premium just for the right to extract your data out. Plus, the speed at which these vendors extract data can be limited to a small fraction of data per a given amount of time, further restricting your ability to move elsewhere. Once you have the data, you will still have to import it, which could potentially double the cost of migrating!

Legal Hold in Office 365 can prove problematic if putting everything on Legal Hold is an issue for how you handle your policies and eDiscovery requests. It can also throw a wrench into retention policies that will force you to keep everything, regardless of what those retention policies are set to. To use Advanced eDiscovery in Office 365, it will require E5 licensing, which is the most expensive licensing plan in Office 365.

So, what is the best Office 365 journal solution?

LiquidData has an answer! Our solution aims to fix the pitfalls of both the on premises email archives and cloud archives by allowing the solution to be extremely scalable, with a customizable policy-scoped indexing and an ease of getting your data in and out of the platform with no contractual commitments.  It gives you the ability to search with a powerful eDiscovery interface, with features such as hit highlighting, ranking, cases, and much more, all without the need of purchasing Office 365 E5 licensing.

Ask LiquidData for a solution demo!

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