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Creating Efficiencies through Archived Messages

January 15, 2008

Summary

Humans are packrats by nature. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the way many small and medium sized businesses deal with their email, as they indiscriminately save overflow to their Exchange Server.

Introduction

Humans are packrats by nature. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the way many small and medium sized businesses deal with their email, as they indiscriminately save overflow to their Exchange Server. The problem is that Exchange wasn't designed to be a large-scale storage database – and it definitely wasn't designed to be the repository for years’ worth of email messages and related documents.

According to Osterman Research, the average knowledge worker sends and receives 120-124 email messages each day, which equates to 10 to 16MB each day. Multiply that by the number of employees, and you get the idea – the size of email databases has become an enormous issue. The challenge for SMBs is to find a place where all this data can be secure, easily retrievable, and easy to manage.

Here are two common ways SMBs are dealing with this growing amount of messaging data:

  • Add storage as needed: Some businesses simply continue to keep adding more disks for storage as needed. Since the abundance of messaging data is a growing problem, this route requires IT to constantly buy more and more storage to appease the situation. And this data must be backed up – at least daily. Not only that, but as message stores get larger, the backup takes longer. However, SMBs cannot afford the risk that missing a backup window would present, because it would open the data up to possible loss or exposure. Adding storage as needed is a costly way to deal with the problem – and it creates an unwieldy situation to manage.
  • Store as PST files: Many SMBs use quotas to manage message server growth. Once the pre-set message quotas are reached in Exchange, the oldest files that no longer fit are then stored offline on the user’s computer in PST format inside a Personal Folder. For example, if a business sets a 100MB quota, an employee that reaches that maximum will not be able to send or receive messages until room is made for new messages. This is done by dragging messages into PST files – a time consuming task. In fact, Osterman also estimates that knowledge workers spend on average 60 minutes per week managing email (above and beyond simple sending and receiving). There are many problems with relying on PST files for messaging storage. One is the loss of control. Once the file is put into a PST file, it is only stored locally on the user’s machine and is therefore out of the IT and company’s control. Storing email as PST files also makes it very difficult to recover specific messages, which is a real problem in e-discovery situations, when a business is required to produce a specific email for legal reasons. Also, PST files are unreliable, and inherently unstable. This results in a greater risk of corrupted or lost files, and increased calls to the helpdesk, wasting everyone's time. Finally, storing messages as PST files will ultimately lead to a storage consumption dilemma, as PST files can take up around 1-2GB of space each. The problems that result bring us back to the dilemma IT managers cannot seem to get away from: as messaging data grows, where will I put it all, and how can I manage it all?

A better solution

Symantec Enterprise Vault can help SMBs looking for a way out of the email storage conundrum. Enterprise Vault is a software-based archiving platform that resides next to the email server and provides intelligent archiving for messages. For instance, SMBs can set retention policies that dictate what messages to keep, how long to keep them (for a set amount of time or indefinitely), what can and cannot be modified, etc. Setting retention policies will reduce the size and number of messages to be stored, which results in less overall volume to manage and less message store size required. Policies can also be set so messaging is archived in accordance with business, legal, and regulatory mandates now and in the future.

Enterprise Vault is transparent to the user in many ways – quotas are invisible and irrelevant to the employees using email. To find an archived message, users simply look inside their Outlook application as they would a regular email message. IT can set up policies that state if a user hits 90% of his or her mail quota for example, archiving automatically starts to make room for incoming messages, which is transparent to the user.

By reducing a SMB's online message store by about 50-75%, Enterprise Vault makes faster backup of Exchange possible. To do this, SMBs set archiving policies based on the age of messages in the mail store – if a message is older than three months, for example, it moves to the archive. Archiving in this manner will lighten the load placed on Exchange and help it perform better.

An added benefit for SMBs that have historically saved all email in PST files is Enterprise Vault's PST migration utility, which finds and brings all messages previously stored as PSTs back under IT control.

Conclusion

The messaging storage pains that most SMBs suffer now far outweigh the costs and benefits associated with a better solution. The reality is that email stores are growing by the day, and too many SMBs are utilizing a patchwork system to deal with the problem. Enterprise Vault can help SMBs manage the massive growth in their email systems with intelligent storage, a seamless interface, and easier management.

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