Under this series, I am going to talk about how we positioned Symantec Enterprise Vault to -
- Optimise the storage requirement
- Meeting compliance by storing the mails as may be required by various government acts like Sarbanes-Oxley (any many more)
One of our customers was facing problem of exponential growth of email messages in the organisation leading to unmanageable size of MS Exchange data store. This was mainly due to
- Large number of users about 2500-3000 users storing data on MS Exchange severs
- There was a threat to corruption of this data and interruption in the mail operation due to corruption of the mails. Most of the users were keeping their mails on the server and no one was deleting the mails from the server. The mail boxes of some of the users were running in GBs.
- This lead to increase in backup Window leading to increased problems from backup prospective.
Looking at the criticality of the situation due to day by day increase in the mailbox size and thus increase in size of MS Exchange datastore, Management decided to implement quota on mailboxes. It was decided that they will enforce the quota to users. They divided the users in three categories -
- Light Users
- Medium Users
- Heavy Users
Based on this classification, the quota was decided and enforced. All the end-users including CEO/CIO/CFO were asked to archive their old mails to local PST on their own laptops/desktop. This policy enforcement reduced the size of datastore on the mail server. But created other issues of managing data on the local PC specially that of local pst. There were frequent issue of local PST corruption which were stored on user laptop/desktop which was not under control of central IT team.
The situation worsened when one day CEO's laptop was crashed while installing encryption software on his local disk. Since the PST was stored on local machine and CEO was on business tour, his laptop was not backed up for one fortnight. This lead to CEO losing his important mails. This incident prompted CTO to look at alternative solution for managing the growing Mail server.
During our visit to his office for discussing his requirement for storage, we learned that the requirement for additional storage was to accommodate the growing needs of users on Mail server.
This is when we gave them idea to “Stop buying storage” and asked them to look at a mail archival solution. Suggesting an archival solution is easy but choosing a right archival system is not that easy.
The first step was to define the objective. To define the objective, we also involved Business, HR, and Legal groups etc to understand and define their requirements. After discussions we realised that apart from reducing the size of mailbox store on MS Exchange server, there was also requirement to store the mails for compliance purpose as the company was looking at entering the stock market in near future. One of the compliance norms for entering the stock market was to maintain the mails for 7 years. Since now we were also talking about storing the data for at-least 7 years obviously one has to retrieve this data when required. Retrieval of data means this data needs to be searched for the required information. Searching is possible only if the data is indexed properly.
Looking at the above requirement and associated tasks involved with it, our objective was to
- Archive mails for reducing storage,
- Fast retrieval
- Searching the stored mails and also to store them for at least 7 years.
- Indexing the archived mails.
Needless to say here that even if end user deletes the mail from his mailbox it should be available in archival system for 7 years from compliance perspective.
So the first step in choosing the archival system was
- Allow the proposed system to store the mails on central storage and remove the mailbox quotas for end users without compromising the performance on the existing MS Exchange server.
- Define the time for retention of mails for compliance and regulatory purpose
- Ensure that the proposed system will allow the searching of mails easily on predefined parameters.
- Ensure that end users are able to access the archived mails as and when required without intervention of mail administrator.
Once the objective was defined, the next step was to decide on architecture for the proposed archival solution. Mail archival system falls under two main categories i.e.
- Hosted Solution
- In-House Solution
Since this company was clear that they require -
- Fast retrieval of end User mails i.e. performance in storing and retrieving the mails
- High level of control on the company data and integration with local machine i.e. MS Outlook
- Flexibility for managing the data objects.
- No data should be stored outside the company premises due to internal security policies
An In-house archival solution was short-listed.
After choosing the In-house archival system, the next choice was selecting the operating system for Mail Archival. Since MS Exchange runs on Windows Platform, they decided to implement mail archival system on Windows platform.
This way we were looking at selecting the vendor for mail archival system. Finally customer preferred Symantec Enterprise Vault as their following requirements were met
- The solution was able to archive user mailbox items, journaled items, public folders
- It allowed granular control on which mailboxes, journal mailboxes, public folders etc to consider for archiving
- Schedule or timelines for archival to happen.
- Define the required indexing levels
- The policy definitions for each archiving target i.e. user mailbox items, journal items, public folders
- Definition of the Retention Categories
- Automatic discovery of PST files and archival of the same
Once the product was decided, the next step was to show a POC. For POC we installed the Symantec Enterprise vault on virtual machine. During the POC we sent mails to about 10 users with 10 MB attachment. The users replied to those mails without removing the attachment and the same was the case when they forwarded the mails to other users on the POC setup.
Since the mails were archived using the EV, a stub was present in the mailbox. Users were able to click the mail from their INBOX and open the mail seamlessly as if the mail was opening from their own mailbox. Due to Single instance storage capability of EV the attachment was saved once on the storage device. This reduced the size on the storage device. The customer was very impressed with this feature as users purposely replied to their mails without removing attachments.
During the POC we showed the interface which was easy to use the way they were using MS Exchange without the need for any user level training.
We showed how to search for a particular mail (search capability), Policy based archival, automatic discovery of PST files etc.
During single storage feature demonstration, one of the administrators jokingly said, this archival technology should also be available for file server so that we don’t save multiple files on the file server.
Myself and my colleague was doing this POC and we looked at each other and smiled and told them that yes, they can use the Symantec EV for file storage also. On the file server you have the same functionality where any file which is moved to archive, a stub is available on the file server and you can double click that stub to open the file. Not only this, the file on the EV was stored only once even if there were multiple copies on the file server.
We also demonstrated them that they can even restrict which files users can store on the file server for e.g. MS Office files, PDFs, Autocad files etc. We also showed them how to prevent saving of files with MP3 extensions etc on the file server.
This POC gave us the chance to position Symantec EV for their mail archival requirement and also for the file server. After this POC we go the PO for Symantec EV and also deployment of the same. Positioning the EV for file server increased our revenue.
Customer has placed the order now, till the time of writing this article, installation and delivery of the product is still pending and we are confident that the customer will benefit from his decision of investing in this world call product.