MessageLabs has launched its first e-mail archival product that company officials say will allow for fast access to messages that must be stored for regulatory and legal reasons.

MessageLabs Archiving Service encrypted the e-mail it stored, retrieved and sent over a network, said David Hahn, senior product manager. E-mail could be searched using a Web-based interface or Microsoft's Outlook program, he said.

Messages could be searched in several ways, including by content, attachments and date ranges. The archiving service was compatible with Microsoft's Active Directory service, which allowed for managing identities and customizing different levels of access for users across a network, Hahn said.

The need for the service related to companies wanting more central control over their e-mail, Hahn said. "We clearly see this as part of a much broader business messaging strategy given the amount of intellectual property stored in archival e-mail systems," he said.

Increasingly, governments were setting tighter rules regarding the access and storage of electronic data, including e-mail. Hahn said companies could implement their own policies for e-mail storage using the Archiving Service.

For example, an organisation might choose to store all corporate correspondence for three years while only keeping product management e-mail messages for one year, Hahn said.

The move to offer an archived e-mail service was a natural progression for MessageLabs, which specializes in antivirus and antispam services, said Brian Czarny, vice president for product management. In November 2005, MessageLabs bought Omnipod Inc., a company specializing in hosted secure IM (instant message) services, bolstering its suite of managed e-mail and Web services.

A handful of organisations in the U.S. and the U.K. have been using a beta version of the product, Czarny said. The service will cost between £6 to £12 (US$11 to $22) per user per month, Hahn said. An e-mail storage quota was set depending on the pricing plan, Hahn said.