E-mail management/archiving strategies

By Ann Silverthorn

E-mail management and archiving issues have captured the attention of storage professionals-as well as their executive managers-because of the rapidly exploding capacities involved as well as legal and compliance issues. These issues have forced organizations to rethink how they handle both their incoming and outgoing e-mails.

Research from the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) demonstrates that e-mails have become the number one record type to be requested in legal cases (see figure, below).

E-mail problems are unique to each organization. Some organizations want to control spam, and some want to eliminate inappropriate incoming and outgoing content in e-mails. Some companies are heavily controlled by government regulations. Also, some organizations grapple with whether they should allow their employees to retrieve their own archived e-mails or rely on IT to retrieve it for them.

Some organizations impose mailbox quotas, but mailbox quotas can complicate things rather than improve them. In addition, without a reliable e-mail management and archiving tool, locating e-mails scattered throughout the organization frustrates both auditors and end users. In addition, the company could be out of compliance with corporate and government regulations.

In e-commerce, employees must have access to e-mail to close sales and to manage accounts. Many of these types of employees, plus many other types, often want to keep their e-mails indefinitely, but some organizations mandate that e-mails more than 90 days old be deleted. In fact, 34% of the companies in an ESG survey said they delete e-mails within 90 days (see figure, above). Deleting older e-mails is inadvisable because the one e-mail that might help a company win a lawsuit might be nonexistent. Also, e-mails sent outside the company will probably still exist, even if the company has deleted them internally.

The case studies below illustrate how different types of organizations handle their own unique e-mail management and archiving needs.

Control mailbox size

Aspen Square Management, in West Springfield, MA, is a real-estate management group with more than 15,000 apartments under management nationwide. The company recently found that some of its users abused the e-mail system and would often have 70GB or larger mailboxes. To get better control of its e-mails, Aspen Square Management turned to C2C’s ArchiveOne software. A local C2C technician installed the product and also assisted with a later upgrade as Aspen migrated from Exchange 2000 to Exchange 2003. In addition, Aspen’s old server was coming to its end of life, so the company also purchased a new Dell PowerEdge server to archive the e-mails.

“The users haven’t noticed any difference in their experience,” says Eric Estes, senior IT manager at Aspen Square Management. “When they want an old e-mail back, they can do so through a hyperlink in the e-mail body.

“Saving disk space is good,” adds Estes, “but using ArchiveOne on a separate server means that if Exchange crashes, we’ll still have the archived e-mail. Archiving older e-mail from the Exchange server to the ArchiveOne server and then backing up to tape is definitely something that makes us sleep better at night.”

Handling e-discovery requests

In some ways, municipalities such as Illinois-based Village of Niles are different from other organizations. The Village of Niles IT employees don’t worry much about sabotage, and they share information with other municipalities more readily than one corporation might with another.

The Village of Niles IT department is more concerned with regulations such as HIPAA to make sure they protect their counseling and medical clients’ data. In addition to privacy, the municipality is hit with Freedom of Information Act requests every day. They are required to honor those requests, but at the same time they’re mandated to keep sensitive e-mails safe.

The Village of Niles needed an e-mail solution that would fit its budget and have an installation process that wouldn’t disturb users or put an extra burden on operations. The municipality also needed an e-mail solution that would ensure electronic data was available upon request to authorized personnel.

Until about a year ago, employees of the municipality considered their e-mail private correspondence. Then a mandate from the State of Illinois stated that all e-mail be considered the property of the municipality and would be subject to review, storage, and reproduction. This mandate was instituted after several plaintiffs in suits against the State of Illinois subpoenaed e-mails.

MIS director Bill Shaw decided on Jatheon Technologies’ Plug n Comply e-mail archiving appliance. The Jatheon appliance now archives all the e-mails that come into the municipality’s data center.

The new appliance should be able to hold at least seven years’ worth of data, according to Shaw. It is a 1U appliance with 16TB of capacity on SATA drives. Shaw hopes to eventually give employees direct access to the Jatheon box so they can pull back their own e-mail.

Larger mailbox, please

Florida-based Quantum Marine Engineering, a hydraulic manufacturer for large yachts and ships, has grown from five to seventy employees during the past decade, with 20 of those employees in the Netherlands. Trying to keep control over the size of the company’s mailboxes and searching for e-mails were becoming unmanageable tasks for the company. Users were constantly asking for more space, and searches took too long to make sure all of the engineers were up-to-date with the most recent changes related to their projects.

Quantum Marine selected GFI Mail-Archiver for Exchange e-mail management software.

“The GFI installation and maintenance cost a couple of thousand dollars,” says Michael Bartlett, director of information technology for Quantum Marine, but he says they had a 100% return on investment (ROI) almost immediately.

An important benefit Bartlett sees with MailArchiver is the ability to search for specific archived e-mails. “Our projects can stretch over years,” says Bartlett. “We often have to collect all of the e-mail information related to a project that spans multiple users, some of whom may no longer work here. Now we can search by project name and sender, and also in mailboxes that are no longer active.

“Having retention policies in the archive system allows us to keep a good handle on the use and amount of e-mail we have,” says Bartlett.

Bartlett is also using MailArchiver to limit the size of mailboxes. This doesn’t come easily to end users though, so when employees ask that their mailbox be increased, Bartlett walks the user through the retrieval process, showing them that the archived e-mails can still be accessed through Internet Explorer.

The ability to control the size of the database, search e-mail, and have an alternative backup system that’s separate from the Exchange server provides both short- and long-term benefits, according to Bartlett.

Reduce spam

Eplica is a corporate service provider in San Diego that had a huge problem: It was being blacklisted by AOL, Google, Yahoo!, Spam House, and others. It was also out of compliance with regulations such as the Statement on Auditing Standard 70S (SAS70) in California.

Eplica’s major clientele is the staffing industry. The company manages the day-to-day operations of its clients, handling worker’s compensation and unemployment, computer and network support, phone support, and check printing. Eplica has 300 employees in 14 locations.

“We sent unsolicited e-mails and didn’t offer a way for the recipients to unsubscribe. Not only were we sending hundreds of thousands of e-mails a day, but we were also sending out e-mails that contained sensitive information,” says Brad Taylor, systems architect at Eplica.

In addition, Eplica itself was receiving 700,000 spam e-mails per day. Because many of the company’s clients were staffing providers, the recruiters would sign up on message boards and subscribe to e-mail newsletters, which then generated the huge number of inbound spam the IT staff had to administer.

Eplica purchased MessageGate e-mail management software, including MessageGate Policy Enforcement and MessageGate E-mail Filtering.

MessageGate’s Policy Enforcement tool archives e-mail and alerts Eplica’s marketing department if a company unit is trying to send out a large number of e-mails at once.

The e-mail addresses are checked to make sure they are valid, that the recipients want to receive the e-mails, and that the e-mail list is not out-of-date.

Eplica uses MessageGate E-mail Filtering for incoming messages. With the E-mail Filtering tool, Eplica uses a quarantine server, which allows the company to redirect mail, while blocking spam and other inappropriate messages.

Eplica has not been blacklisted since the installation of the MessageGate Policy Enforcement tool. In addition, the E-mail Filtering software has reduced the number of incoming e-mails from about 700,000 to 10,000 per day.

Taylor says most of the ROI came from inbound e-mail reduction, since the company now needs less bandwidth and fewer servers. When Eplica was receiving 700,000 e-mails a day, it needed four perimeter servers. Since the MessageGate solution was installed, Eplica is down to two perimeter servers and a single Exchange server. Taylor estimates a savings of about $15,000 per year just on the inbound e-mail side.

Looking ahead, Taylor sees better security for the e-mails that go in and out of the company, better compliance with regulations, and better overall support for Eplica’s customers. Internally, the benefits will result in less disk space used and less hands-on management of individual e-mails.

No change to Exchange

ev3, based in Redwood City, CA, manufactures endovascular devices, such as stents that clear the major artery near the heart, and also products that clear out blockages in major veins in the legs.

The size and number of e-mails at Fox Hollow, a company that ev3 recently acquired, were a headache for Chuck Arconi, a Fox Hollow network engineer. Faced with having to buy another server, he had to find a way to store the growing number of e-mails and to manage those e-mails better.

Arconi chose Mimosa Systems’ NearPoint for Microsoft Exchange Server. One reason he liked NearPoint was that it didn’t require a software installation or registry changes on the Exchange server.

Paralegals at Fox Hollow now have access to NearPoint, saving Arconi hours per day. Mimosa’s NearPoint restores Fox Hollow’s e-mail, allowing restoration of an entire database, storage group, or Exchanger server.



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This article was originally published on January 01, 2008