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Stay vigilant with compliance management tools in Exchange, Office 365

Organizations must set up messaging platforms to prevent email purges, often to meet legal obligations. These tips help Exchange and Office 365 administrators stay compliant.

Exchange Server and Exchange Online administrators not only keep the lines of communication open, but also must master the compliance management tools for those platforms to avoid repercussions.

When users delete email messages, it's up to administrators to configure the back end to store those messages in compliance with regulations on the organization. Concerns about Office 365 features in this area may have kept some administrators from considering a move to the cloud platform. But Microsoft has slowly added features in the Security & Compliance Center to put enterprises at ease. Office 365 has a native reporting tool to track activities of users and administrators, and Office 365 eDiscovery offers features in key compliance areas, such as retention and preservation.

Messaging architects, consultants and other experts share these four tips to help admins understand what's available in each messaging platform, as well as strategies and compliance management tools they can use to work through any potential compliance issues.

1. Ask compliance questions before committing to Exchange Server

Despite the rise of collaboration tools such as Slack and Microsoft Teams, email continues to be the main way business workers communicate. Many businesses want the admins to spend money to keep Exchange updated to tackle advances in technology, such as synching email to the users' mobile devices. For organizations that must follow certain regulatory requirements, compliance remains a critical upgrade issue. When moving from the familiar environs of on-premises Exchange to a hosted service, such as Exchange Online in the Office 365 suite, it's important to ask the potential vendor key compliance questions. Be aware of how often backups will occur and where email information is stored, in addition to other factors covered in-depth in this feature article.

2. Use Office 365 eDiscovery tool to retain messages and more

At companies legally bound to keep messages for two years, administrators must store -- and easily retrieve -- email data long forgotten by the workers creating it. While compliance concerns were once a road block for admins who wanted to shift from an on-premises messaging server into the cloud, those concerns have slowly dissipated as Microsoft has added more features and compliance management tools to Exchange Online. The Office 365 eDiscovery tool can retain messages, even if they are deleted by users or are purged by a misconfigured retention policy. This compliance management tool also features a litigation hold, which keeps all the data in the mailbox or other source until the administrator releases it.

Digitization has had a huge influence on all modern companies' processes, and information governance and compliance in particular. Companies should explore how strategic data and compliance management can benefit the entire business, according to frequent SearchCompliance contributor Jeffrey Ritter.

3. Keep an eye on compliance with this Office 365 reporting tool

Office 365 provides several reports, available in dashboards, to monitor on a regular basis. This tip can help admins get familiar with the Office 365 reporting tool in the Usage and Security and Compliance categories. The Email Activity report particularly aids compliance, as it shows the total number of messages sent and received across the organization and compares that number to the previous reporting time period. With this tool, admins get an activity overview and can easily see how employees use Office 365, and is anything is going astray.

4. Build a preservation policy with Office 365 retention tools

The Office 365 retention tools have granular controls that help to fine-tune a preservation policy for organizations that must retain email and documents for a set period of time. There are two categories in the retention tool: Delete and Preserve. Delete allows admins to decide when a message is removed from the system, while Preserve protects email data from accidental deletion by company officers for a set amount of time.

Next Steps

How to fill in holes in Office 365 compliance

Office 365 security tools to ease your top concerns

Manage Office 365 compliance with PowerShell

This was last published in April 2017

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