You already know how important it is to archive business email in case you need it later for reference, audits, or litigation, but storing all those archived bits and bytes is a real headache. Shoving them all on disks or a dedicated hard drive isn't practical or secure, and searching old email would be a nightmare.

Email management appliance vendor AtMail put a new device on the market earlier this week that aims to make archiving email less of a chore and more of a no-brainer. Archive Vault automatically captures inbound and outbound email, stores them in a searchable format, and even pulls copies from email from hosted Web apps.

Stored email can be accessed and searched easily with Archive Vault's Web-based management utility -- and I do mean easily. I tried a hands-on demo of the appliances user interface and was able to drill down through huge piles of email using all sorts of search parameters. If command-line access is your thing, you can also search email via SSH.

AtMail offers three sizes of storage capacity: 1TB and 4TB for small to medium deployments, and 8 TB for larger deployments. Under the hood, you'll find Intel's 64-bit Quad Core processors and the 64-bit CentOS enterprise-class Linux. Installation is simply a matter of dropping the appliance into your server rack and attaching an Ethernet cable.

I caught up with AtMail CTO Jason Brown recently who told me the development of Archive Vault was prompted by the rise in e-discovery orders during court cases and regulatory compliance issues that often mean storing several years worth of email in a nonalterable, nonerasable, searchable format for as long as seven years. He points out that IDC estimates the volume of email exchanged in 2007 topped 97 billion messages per day. The amount of email a typical medium-sized business could amass over the course of just one year is staggering and many companies are struggling to cope with the deluge.

Even if your company isn't legally required to store emails, in today's litigation-happy atmosphere, it still makes good sense to invest in a secure email archiving system. If nothing else, appliances like Archive Vault often reduce the spam load on a mail server and improve overall network performance.

What methods of email storage and archiving does your company use? Let me know in the comments.

We have been an AtMail customer for almost 5 years now and are switching our services. In this time we have not been provided support even though we pay for it. We are not getting the functionality as promised by the AtMail people and they have not responed to any of our support requests.

I would consider carefully before using the AtMail products and services.