4 approaches to Securing Documents and Email Attachment Assets

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Capture Store and Access documents

Capture Store and Access documents

Recently Mithi launched a new capability in Connect Xf (3.16), called the Secure Attachment Vault, which allows you to capture all inbound and outbound attachments into a central secure reliable storage as an Asset repository. This frees up the user to freely create and exchange the documents, without worrying about securing them someplace. While this is one approach to securing the document assets being created within the enterprise, I thought I might share 3 more approaches to do the same. As you read, you might find that in many situations you may need to adopt the use of more than one method to ensure that no data is missed.

Popular research by various groups shows that Email Attachments account for 85 percent of all e-mail data. Graphics, spreadsheets and Word documents frequently accompany email messages. Looking at these reports and from our own experience of working with enterprise customers for over 15 years, we have learnt that the attachments sent and received by employees are among the most valuable assets of the company.

Typically these precious assets are stored and maintained by the users on individual end points (laptops, PCs and devices) and only transported using email. To retrieve all or some of these assets, the company or the user would need access to ALL the emails of the user to search for the relevant emails and/or the devices used by the user.

The following are possible approaches to ensuring that these precious assets (documents) are secured in a reliable medium for access on demand. Lets explore each approach to learn how EASY it is to access these assets on demand.

Secure Attachment Vault:

Using this capability, administrators can ensure that every single attachment sent and received by selected or all users of the system can be automatically uploaded to a central point (typically an FTP server). Thus each user can be provided with a secure ftp space, where only the attachments sent and received by the user are deposited. Using any simple ftp client, the user can now access all the assets. The system has the flexibility to even group the storage of assets across a group of users (departments)

End point backups:

Invest and Deploy an end point backup system to ensure that all data on all devices and machines in use are backed up centrally and automatically. Depending on the capability of the end point backup tool, this may allow you to retrieve a portion of the users’ data or all of it in case of a disaster at the end point. Please note that the data being backed up should include the local mail store of the user (e.g. the PST files in case the user is an MS Outlook user or the mbox files in case the user is a Thunderbird user). Note that while the Secure Attachment Vault will capture all documents transported over email, it will not be able to secure the documents from the user’s machine, which were never sent using email. Thus, it appears that this method may be a must in most environments. There may be many methods to achieve end point backups, and we can discuss this in another blog post.

Email Archival:

You can setup the personal archival system in Connect Xf to capture a copy of every mail sent and received by the users in a central mail archival storage. This system maintains the data in the archival based on a retention period, and allows the user to search for specific mail or even retrieve the entire mailbox in case of a disaster on the server or at the end point. In most environments, it has become mandatory to maintain an archive of the emails for a specific period for governance compliance. While this is fine as an archive of the communication between the user and other recipients (local or remote) and can serve very well as an audit trail and a disaster recovery point, it is not the most conducive method to access all the attachment assets easily since there would be multiple copies (thanks to the back and forth communication) of the assets, and the assets would be embedded in the mails (needing each mail to be opened to access the attachments). Watch more about archival here.

SISA (Single Instance Storage for Attachments):

Understanding the needs of the corporate to gain easy access to the attachments, Mithi has been continuously innovating around the handling and processing of the attachments that flow through the system. Earlier versions of Connect Xf saw the introduction of the highly popular SISA (Single Instance Storage for Attachments) feature. By configuring SISA, customers could modify mail delivered to user’s inboxes, such that while the mail body remained intact, the original attachments were stripped and stored in a central repository and hyperlinks to these were inserted into the original mail. While SISA helped companies save on  the precious resources of storage and bandwidth and also secured the attachments,  this method faced the same challenges in ease of accessing these assets as described for the Email Archival approach above.

So which method is best?

I would deploy all 4 methods, each for the benefits it offers besides just securing the assets. viz. saving bandwidth, storage with SISA, being ready for compliance and disaster recovery with Personal Archival, having a backup of and easy access to all attachments sent and received by users with Secure Attachment Vault and wrapping this all up with a good cost effective End point backup system.

Do write to us if you know of more approaches to secure document assets. We would love to hear from you.


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