Email Archiving: A Comprehensive Guide

Email archiving is critical for SEC and FINRA compliance. This comprehensive guide will cover the rules, what you need to be compliant, and the solutions to get you there.
February 20, 2024
Thomas Stewart, Founder & CEO
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Email archiving is a game-changer for modern businesses. Beyond just cleaning up your inbox, it ensures every important email is securely saved and can be quickly found when necessary. This guide will explain why having an email archiving system is crucial in today's digital era, transforming what seems like a basic task into a key strategy for any organization.

Understanding Email Archiving

Email archiving is vital for today's businesses. It does more than just declutter your inbox—it keeps every important email safe and within easy reach. This guide will dive into why an email archiving system is essential in the digital age, turning a simple task into a strategic move for any organization.

Ensuring FINRA and SEC Compliance through Email Archiving

Keeping up with FINRA and SEC rules is key for financial firms, and your email archive is critical to stay compliant. Here’s a clearer look at what you need to do to stay compliant:

The SEC and FINRA often request email archives in routine exams of your firm

FINRA Focus:

  • How Long to Keep Emails: Your email archive must store all business emails for three to six years, depending on the content. This is termed the "retention period".
  • Access on Demand: You should be able to pull up any archived email within a reasonable time, especially those from the first two years.

SEC Rules:

  • Tamper-Proof Storage: Use a Write Once, Read Many (WORM) format for storing emails, making sure they can’t be changed or deleted after being archived.
  • Archive Everything Business-Related: Every email, attachment, and even casual business chats need to be saved.

The Importance of Being Compliant:

  • Be Ready for Audits: Smoothly handle any regulatory checks with well-organized email archives.
  • Legal Protection: Archived emails can act as crucial evidence if you face legal questions.
  • Maintain Your Good Name: Showing that you follow the rules helps build trust with your clients and the market.

Staying on Track:

  • Pick the Right Archiving Tool: Ensure your email archiving system meets both FINRA and SEC standards, including secure, unchangeable storage.
  • Regularly Check Your Compliance: Set up a routine to review your email archiving for ongoing compliance, adapting as rules evolve.
  • Train Your Team: Make sure everyone understands the importance of proper email handling and archiving to avoid compliance issues.

Understanding and implementing these detailed practices for email archiving not only keeps you in line with FINRA and SEC but also strengthens your firm’s credibility and reliability in the financial industry. Remember that email archiving is just one channel that requires archiving, SMS and social media are a couple others to keep in mind.

Essential Features for Email Archiving Solutions

Choosing the right email archiving software is key for meeting FINRA and SEC regulations and managing emails effectively. Here's a streamlined guide to the essential features you need:

Email archiving is critical, so picking the right solution is important

Compliance and Security:

  • WORM Storage: Ensures emails can't be altered or deleted once in your email archive, meeting SEC's strict standards. Note that this differs from typical email backup, where records can still be altered.
  • Custom Retention Periods: Supports FINRA's guidelines for storing business emails for three to six years, with easy access to older emails.
  • Encryption: Keeps emails secure, whether in transit or stored, protecting sensitive information.
  • Access Controls: Allows only authorized staff to view or manage archived emails, securing against unauthorized access.

Efficiency and Management:

  • Advanced Search: Makes finding specific emails quick and easy, using criteria like date, sender, or keywords.
  • E-Discovery Support: Simplifies legal processes by enabling easy email export for audits or legal requests.
  • Intuitive Interface: Offers a user-friendly platform, reducing the need for extensive training.
  • Automated Archiving: Minimizes manual tasks by automatically saving emails, ensuring no important communication is overlooked.

Scalability and Integration:

  • Scalable Storage: Grows with your firm, accommodating increasing email volumes without loss in performance.
  • Cloud-Based Options: Provides flexibility and reduces IT overhead, with options for remote access.
  • Email Platform Compatibility: Seamlessly integrates with existing email systems like Microsoft Exchange or Office 365.

Up-to-Date Compliance:

  • Regular Updates: The provider should keep the system aligned with the latest regulatory changes, ensuring ongoing compliance.

Selecting a solution with these features not only helps your firm stay compliant but also boosts operational efficiency and data security. It’s about making sure your email archiving strategy is strong, compliant, and ready to support your communication needs over the long haul.

Comparing Email Archiving Solutions

Choosing the right email archiving solution is crucial for compliance and efficient email management. Here's a look at some popular options like Smarsh, Global Relay, and others, highlighting a key pro and con for each to help you make an informed decision.

A few of the top email archiving solutions
A few of the top email archiving solutions


  • Pro: Smarsh offers comprehensive compliance capabilities, supporting a wide range of regulatory requirements, making it ideal for financial institutions.
  • Con: The platform can be complex and may require a steep learning curve for new users, potentially slowing down initial implementation.
  • Compared to Hadrius: Hadrius is powerful and comprehensive, but easy to use with a simple 1hr implementation time and dedicated 24/7 customer support.

Global Relay:

  • Pro: Known for its strong e-discovery and search capabilities, Global Relay makes it easy to locate specific emails quickly, which is invaluable during audits and legal inquiries.
  • Con: Some users report that its pricing model can be on the higher side, especially for small to medium-sized businesses.
  • Compared to Hadrius: Hadrius is affordable to firms of as sizes and maintains top notch e-discovery capabilities in addition to AI email review.


  • Pro: Mimecast provides robust security features, including targeted threat protection, which enhances overall email system security.
  • Con: The user interface and navigation can be challenging for some, affecting user experience and productivity.
  • Compared to Hadrius: Hadrius is audited by third-parties to be certified as secure and has a modern user interface loved by compliance teams.


  • Pro: Offers excellent data protection and threat management tools, ensuring emails are secure from external threats.
  • Con: Integration with existing IT infrastructure can be complex, requiring additional setup time and resources.
  • Compared to Hadrius: Hadrius integrates seamlessly with your existing compliance program and encrypts all your date at rest and in transit.


  • Pro: Barracuda stands out for its simplicity and ease of use, making it accessible for businesses of all sizes.
  • Con: While user-friendly, its features may be too basic for larger enterprises or those with specific compliance needs.
  • Compared to Hadrius: Hadrius provides all the comprehensive features you need in a single unified platform, covering your entire compliance program while remaining simple and easy to use.

When selecting an email archiving solution, consider not only the regulatory compliance and security features but also how the platform fits with your organization’s size, IT infrastructure, and budget. Each solution has its strengths and weaknesses, so it's important to weigh these factors carefully to choose the best fit for your needs.

Email Archiving with Hadrius

Hadrius stands out in the email archiving field, tailored for today's compliance demands and efficiency needs. It blends AI technology with a user-friendly approach to simplify email management and ensure strict adherence to regulations like GDPR, HIPAA, and SEC.

Key Highlights:

  • AI-Powered: Automates email categorization and archiving, reducing manual effort and enhancing compliance accuracy.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Built to align with global standards, ensuring businesses meet legal obligations smoothly.
  • Enhanced Security: Offers robust encryption and access controls, plus WORM storage compliance, for top-notch data protection.
  • Advanced Search: AI-driven search tools enable quick retrieval of emails, essential for audits and legal requests.
  • Scalable Solution: Adapts to business growth, handling increasing email volumes effortlessly.
  • Easy Integration: Fits seamlessly into existing email systems, minimizing disruption to operations.

Hadrius' email archiving user interface
Hadrius' email archiving user interface

Hadrius provides a modern solution for efficient and compliant email archiving, making it an ideal choice for businesses aiming to improve their data management practices while staying ahead of regulatory requirements.


Q1: What's required for SEC and FINRA email archiving?

Secure storage of email communications to satisfy financial regulatory standards, ensuring records are compliance-ready.

Q2: Why archive emails under SEC and FINRA rules?

To comply with legal requirements, facilitate audits, and reduce risk.

Q3: Retention period for emails?

SEC demands six years; FINRA requires three, with easy access for the first two.

Q4: Essential features for a compliant email archiving system?

Includes WORM compliance, retention management, secure and scalable storage, with robust search functionality.

Q7: Consequences of failing to comply?

Include financial penalties, censure, or business suspension.

Q9: Difference between email archiving and backup for compliance?

Archiving is for long-term, compliant storage and retrieval; backup is for data recovery.

Q10: Initial steps for setting up compliant email archiving?

Identify compliance needs, select a suitable archiving solution, create email policies, and provide staff training.

Thomas Stewart

Founder & CEO, Hadrius

Thomas Stewart is the founder and CEO of Hadrius, the most modern SEC and FINRA compliance software around. Thomas previously founded the SEC-registered RIA Quantbase where he learned first hand how to build an efficient compliance program that scales with high-growth firms.

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