E-mail archiving and performance management tools gain favor as the volume and importance of electronic messages grows.
A local investment firm stood accused of stealing more than $1 million from the coffers of Pennsylvania’s Venango County, and frantic local information technology officials could not provide prosecutors with a crucial e-mail message as part of an evidence discovery request. Although the elusive electronic exchange did not damage the case and the firm was found guilty, the incident led to substantial e-mail management changes.
Technology officials at all levels of government dread coming up short in an electronic discovery process or regulatory audit. The prospect of losing e-mail messages from angry citizens is equally frightening. Compounding those fears is exhaustion from dealing with multiplying messages and user inboxes. Those factors make overwhelmed government technology officials desperate to quickly plow through the spate of e-mail management tools now on the market.
Sifting through all the solutions can be tricky. Initially, the market had two broad vendor categories: e-mail archiving companies and system performance management providers.
Now, archiving players — notably storage, records management and security giants with solutions that relegate messages to separate, searchable file stores — sometimes add server monitoring functionality. Smaller system performance management providers are further blurring the lines with lighter-weight archiving capabilities. Their tools monitor the health and capacity of e-mail servers.
To most government buyers, however, the need to solve immediate problems and plan for future e-mail growth is more important than classifying vendors. So IT officials are now looking at products from large and small vendors.
For instance, Venango County wanted a quick-hit solution.
“We needed to produce an e-mail for a court case, and we couldn’t do it,” said Bill Kresinski, the county’s MIS director. “That’s what really did it for us.”
Venango County uses C2C’s Archive One Compliance Manager software to bolster compliance efforts and enforce e-mail policy retention.
Just as agencies must stand ready to produce electronic communication for litigation purposes, they must also contend with various state and federal recordkeeping policies and regulations.
That’s what prompted officials at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, who expect archival requirements to increase in the future, to look for an e-mail management solution that could help them comply with regulations more effectively.
“We’ve had to revisit the ability to archive e-mail for prolonged periods,” said David Kaplan, a senior systems administrator. Eventually, the center settled on Quest Software’s Archive Manager, which captures, stores and indexes e-mails.
Data retention regulations were not the only factor in the NASA center’s search for better ways to manage swelling e-mail traffic. “E-mail archiving has been an ongoing problem for many years,” Kaplan said. Major jumps in e-mail volume quickly led the center to quit relying exclusively on basic archiving capabilities bundled into Microsoft Outlook servers.
“These can be effective but are also prone to problems,” Kaplan said.
Compliance issues also prompted a local government agency in Nevada to step up e-mail management capabilities.
“Nevada archiving rules govern the way we archive information, the repositories we use to hold the information and how long the information has to be held before we discard it,” said Anthony Hedert, principal technology architect at Truckee Meadows Water Authority. TMWA falls under the governance of three local government entities — the Nevada cities of Reno and Sparks and Washoe County in California.
Hedert’s shop uses software from Zenprise to make necessary strides toward compliance and bolster e-mail operations that it runs on Microsoft Exchange servers. The Zenprise solution keeps state officials happy and also helps TMWA’s IT employees handle more than 50,000 e-mails per day, Hedert said.
“We can now effectively track e-mail,” he said. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, we are able to find an e-mail for an individual. If we cannot find it, we can usually say yes or no as to whether the e-mail entered our perimeter and tell the user what happened to it.”
Although many agencies turn to smaller companies to gradually add e-mail management capabilities to major messaging systems such as Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes, others are turning to big-name players that have entered the market in the past three years. They offer e-mail archiving solutions that remove e-mail messages and file attachments from messaging servers.
“One of the trends we are seeing is more storage vendors coming into this market,” said Sara Radicati, chief executive officer of the Radicati Group, a technology market research firm. “We are also seeing the entrance of security vendors like Symantec. This should be a good thing for the market in terms of customer support, new channels and R&D dollars spent on evolving solutions.”
Information management and storage mainstay EMC now offers EmailXtender, software designed to retain, archive and capture e-mail from the most popular electronic messaging applications, such as Exchange and Notes.
“Government agencies are looking for smart archiving and tiered storage to get a better handle on e-mail,” said Andrew Cohen, associate general counsel and director of EMC’s Global Solutions Compliance Practice Lead.
CA offers Message Manager, enterprise-level message management and archiving software, to help agencies with records management, discovery, litigation support and compliance.
Like the other archive management products, CA’s Message Manager can provide tangible operational benefits by letting administrators move older messages and file attachments off the primary messaging system.
“E-mail archiving allows IT organizations to offload storage that negatively impacts total cost of ownership and application performance in messaging systems to archives on a less expensive medium,” said Eric Lundgren, vice president of product management for CA’s storage management business unit.
Symantec is another vendor making its presence felt in the market with its Enterprise Message Management. EMM is a solution portfolio that offers the company’s messaging, indexing and archiving software, Symantec Enterprise Vault, with its security and management solutions, such as Symantec Mail Security for SMTP, Symantec Mail Security 8100 and 8200 series appliances and Symantec IM Manager for instant messaging. Another archiving player, EMM is designed to help agencies get mission-critical data in the form of e-mail attachments out of active e-mail traffic.
While larger agencies march toward heavy-duty archiving efforts to solve e-mail woes, many smaller agencies simply aren’t ready for such a step.
“Our needs are fairly small at the moment,” said Brandon McHenry, systems administrator for the North Mississippi Regional Center, a care facility for the mentally disabled, which the state’s Department of Mental Health operates.
With archiving still a distant goal, McHenry’s staff is making use of system performance tools offered by DYS Analytics to diagnose system and network problems and to chart traffic volume. Employees at the center hope the exercise will pave the way for future investments.
“This is a very good way for me to show the powers that be — the people who sign the checks — that we need another messaging server to handle future growth,” McHenry said.
By generating performance reports that identify e-mail traffic or storage issues, McHenry can side-step several common problems.
“Bandwidth is pretty much a main priority here,” he said. “We have so many applications running that we cannot afford to have bottlenecks in even one area.”
Most agencies — large or small — now view e-mail as a mission-critical application, and settling on the right solution to manage e-mail more effectively can be tough, said J.D. Creedon, general manager of federal and mid-Atlantic markets at GlassHouse Technologies, a government integrator that has walked many agencies through e-mail management buys.
“Government has a multitude of competing priorities that the private sector simply doesn’t face,” he said.
Agency officials seeking e-mail management solutions must know what they are looking for and the problems they need to solve.
“Almost universally, we see customers defining what their e-mail archiving goals are by the features being offered by the winning vendor, instead of being driven by their actual business needs,” Creedon said.
McAdams is a freelance writer based in Vienna, Va.
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