Camping World Uses Email Archiving Service Coast to Coast

Retailer of RV and camping products uses a service from Postini for email archiving, spam filtering, and virus protection services

January 29, 2009

4 Min Read
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Growth through acquisition has become a popular way to develop a business in today's rapidly evolving, highly competitive business world. During the past few years, Camping World followed that technique and gobbled up a series of mom-and-pop camping retail stores. As the company became larger, the need for a central email archiving system became clear. It decided to go with a software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering instead of a conventional archiving system. Gradually, the reach of that email archiving service spread to other services, such as security, a growing trend in the SaaS market.

Camping World, which has about 4,000 employees spread across the country, sells amenities such as awnings, steps, and chairs for recreational vehicle (RV) campers. The firm went on its acquisition tear in 2003 and has been continually expanding; it now has about 70 locations stretching from New Hampshire to California.

In some cases, Camping World acquired computing infrastructure, such as desktop systems and servers, as well as employees. "There were a number of cases where a company we acquired had no computers or email system," says CIO Matthew Baden.

As the RV equipment supplier expanded, it began in 2005 to build a centralized computing infrastructure to protect its information, which resides mainly on Microsoft Windows servers. The corporation deployed a SAN and connected a couple of data centers, so it had a backup system in place.

In the middle of 2005, Camping World decided to add an email archiving system to its data center. Compliance was a driving force. With regulations such as Sarbanes Oxley gaining prominence, the company understood that it needed to do a better job of collecting and managing its messages. The numerous acquisitions also meant an increased possibility of litigation and the likelihood that questions requiring e-discovery would arise. "Because we had been so dispersed, it was difficult for users to find needed information," Baden says. Since Exchange was not designed as an archive, users had trouble if they had to go back more than a few days for lost messages.Mailbox sizes were another issue. The company had found it difficult to put policies in place to regulate the size of user email boxes, so employees were storing anything and everything that came into their in-boxes.

Camping World was an EMC customer and decided to look at its Email Extender archiving system. However, that purchase was cost was prohibitive, with pricing of more than $100,000.

Instead, the RV retailer decided at the end of 2005 to go with a SaaS service from Postini. Convenience was one reason for that decision. "SaaS solutions have been gaining interest because they speed up system deployment," notes Bill Kee, product marketing manager at Google, which now owns Postini.

Camping World was able to get the system up and running in a few hours because it did not have to establish the system configuration. Another plus was that the user interface was straightforward -- employees could recover lost messages with a few keystrokes.

Initially, the RV equipment supplier planned to limit email retention to three years but upped that number to 10 years. "With government regulations changing, we thought it would be beneficial to have the data on hand for longer periods," Baden says.After installation, the user worked with the vendor to improve the email archiving product. Initially, the system did not synch with Microsoft's Active Directory, so a lot of manual work was needed when new employees came on board or existing employees switched functions. That limitation was fixed in a later version of the service.

A potential disruption came in the summer of 2007 when Postini was acquired by Google. But Baden says he hasn't "seen any changes in the service or the individuals that we deal with."

In fact, the move benefited the RV equipment supplier. Google melded functions, such as its email filter, with the email archiving system. "Vendors have been gradually expanding the reach of their email archiving products," notes Michael Osterman, a principal analyst with Osterman Research. In a growing number of cases, email archiving is being integrated with security functions. Camping World now pays $43 per user per year for email archiving, spam filtering, and virus protection services.

The RV equipment supplier is continuing to build out it data center infrastructure. Now it has a solid email archiving and security system in place, items that it hopes will support its continued expansion.

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