Transatlantic Reinsurance Company

Turns to startup for search and indexing; still looking for archiving answer

April 30, 2006

4 Min Read
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Last year, the Transatlantic Reinsurance Company (TRC) (NYSE: TRH) IT staff spent nearly as much time on email queries as its legal team did.

Without a dedicated email search and indexing product, TRC found searches could take days for a single query. "It was a very cumbersome procedure," says IT VP Socrates Pichardo. "We had to spell out a query, test it, and make sure it produced the hits we were looking for. [Results] were full of duplications and irrelevancies... It took weeks to go through it all."

To make matters worse, the New York-based insurance company was bombarded with requests with regulators, litigators, and internal departments such as human resources -- all frequently needing information. One query returned 11,000 messages for the legal department to go through, and close to half of them were duplicates.

At the end of last year, TRC went looking for a better system. Pichardo says his first choice was a product that could search and archive email. He looked at Symantec Enterprise Vault, EMC EmailXtender, and IBM Storage Archive Manager, but found their search features "rudimentary." (See Symantec Upgrades Vault and EMC Offers Email Services.)

"Their emphasis is on archiving, not retrieving or searching," Pichardo says. "They do a good job of managing storage growth and handling ageing of emails, but their search capabilities are on the level of Outlook search at best. When we questioned them they said, 'We're not looking to expand our email search capability.'"Pichardo decided to find a dedicated search product and worry about archiving later. He had dealt with some of startup Clearwell Systems' executives when they worked for other firms and gave the startup a call. (See Clearwell Analyzes Email.) Although Clearwell was just bringing out its Email Intelligence Platform, Pichardo found its search features much more sophisticated than desktop search products from Google and Yahoo.

Clearwell software sorts messages on Exchange servers by factors such as the names of the senders and recipients, attachments, the number of replies generated, the time between replies, and how many times messages were forwarded.

"Everybody can do keyword search," Pichardo says. "We needed intelligent search. You might get two million hits on a query -- how do you rank that? We need to make intelligent sense of it."

Although Clearwell's software works with archiving products and Hewlett-Packard sells it integrated with its Reference Information Storage System (RISS), TRC purchased a Clearwell appliance that plugs into the network, which also contains Network Appliance storage systems.

Pichardo says Clearwell's price -- it starts at $50,000 for 100 Gbytes of email analyzed -- falls between the cost of enterprise desktop search software and full archiving systems. However, it does not manage emails and set retention policies as archiving software does.Pichardo says he finds Clearwell's search engine as easy to use as Google or Yahoo but more extensive. As a result, Pichardo's staff is almost completely relieved of the search process. IT merely makes sure the Clearwell appliance indexes all emails on the server once a day to stay current. TRC's legal team handles the search and retrieval.

"I don't even know what the latest queries are now," Pichardo says. "Before, requests required high-level skills, and I had to put senior-level people to work on them to make sure we got conclusive results. Now I can use lower-level people just to make sure we keep the indexes current. We run it once a day. Clearwell goes out to all servers and picks up new messages and updates."

Now Pichardo can concentrate on finding email archiving software to manage his email. He says there is no hurry, since search and retrieval were his main needs. "We're looking at the next 12 to 18 months to deploy an archiving system," he says.

That's good, since at TRC, as in many other organizations, email archiving isn't a high corporate priority, despite its significance for storage administrators. (See Email Growth Spells Etrouble.) "Email archiving is not a sexy problem. It's an IT problem, not a business problem, so it's hard getting buy-in," Pichardo says. "Now that we have search capability, archiving is just about storage."

Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and SwitchOrganizations mentioned in this article:

  • Clearwell Systems Inc.

  • World Cellular Information Service (WCIS)

  • Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Symantec Corp. (Nasdaq: SYMC)

  • Yahoo Inc.

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