Blackmont Slashes Archiving Costs

Financial specialist looks for hardware savings and fast access from outsourced email

April 5, 2007

3 Min Read
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Financial firm Blackmont has slashed the time spent accessing archived emails from 24 hours to just a few seconds by outsourcing a key part of its data center operations.

Despite misgivings from some IT managers about email outsourcing, the Toronto-based company also estimates saving around $400,000 in hardware costs since shifting its email archive to Fortiva around two years ago. (See Outsourcing Email Not an Easy Choice, Fortiva Adds Enhancements, Firm Keeps Tabs With Fortiva, and On Demand In Demand.)

Like many firms, Blackmont is coming under increasing compliance pressure, with the Canadian Investment Dealers' Association (IDA) and the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) both requiring emails to be kept for five years.

An additional worry for Blackmont's Information Security Officer Brian Erdelyi is getting hold of specific emails -- no mean feat when the firm generates between 700,000 and 800,000 a month. "The time-sensitive requests tend to be for legal discovery," he explains.

Prior to outsourcing its email archive in spring 2005, Blackmont relied on Symantec's NetBackup to send email data off to its own tape-based archive -- an approach with limitations. If a user, for example, sent an email at noon and then deleted it from his "sent items" folder, there would be no record of the email when the system was backed up at the end of the day, according to Erdelyi.The exec explains that a Fortiva appliance in the Blackmont data center now pulls all the email from his Exchange servers, encrypts it, and then sends it to Fortiva via the Internet. The encryption keys are stored with Blackmont and another "third party" that Erdelyi was unwilling to name.

A Web-based interface has also dramatically eased Erdelyi's access to archived emails. "We can find a message in five seconds using the Fortiva solution's integration with [Microsoft] Active Directory," says Erdelyi. "This gives our legal counsel the ability to quickly assess what is going on."

Prior to outsourcing the email archive, it could take up to 24 hours to get hold of an archived email. "Before, I would have had to restore from the [backup] server first -- it would have been the next day before I got the message."

Blackmont looked at a number of vendors prior to choosing Fortiva, one of which was also an outsourcer. Erdelyi could only name one of these firms, KVS, although he says that cost was one of the major factors behind his decision to choose Fortiva.

With around 1 Tbyte worth of email now with Fortiva, Erdelyi told Byte and Switch that outsourcing has dramatically cut his spending on storage hardware. Although the exec was unable to provide specific figures, he estimates that Blackmont could easily have spent around $400,000 on SAN-based storage gear to support all this data during a two-year period.The exec was less forthcoming on the value of the Fortiva deal, although he says that Blackmont has already achieved an ROI. Typical pricing for Fortiva's managed email archiving is $3.58 per user per month for a mid-sized organization such as Blackmont.

More and more users are considering outsourced email archiving as a way to cut down on their in-house storage, although some IT managers would prefer to retain control over their own data. (See Email Gets More Outsourced Options.)

Blackmont's Erdelyi admits that he devoted serious thought to the viability of his outsourcing partner: "One of my biggest concerns was 'how sustainable is the company are they going to go out of business and lose all my data?' "

This proved key in the negotiations with Fortiva. "We did have discussions with them and found out that they would be able to extract the data and let us import it into another system" (if they were to go out of business).

— James Rogers, Senior Editor Byte and Switch

  • Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD)

  • Fortiva Inc.

  • Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC)

  • JP.MorganChase

  • KVS Inc.

  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)

  • Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)

  • Symantec Corp.

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