Rein in e-mail storage


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Mailbox measurement
So, what should be your first step? First, you need to gain greater visibility into your e-mail database. While different tools provide different kinds of reports, administrators should at a minimum expect any e-mail management tool that measures their environment to be transparent to users and produce some statistics such as the average user's mailbox size, message content and the average length of message retention.

Sherpa Software, Bridgeville, PA, has a product called Mail Attender 6.0, which brings these types of capabilities into Lotus Domino and Microsoft Exchange environments. It reports on the age, size and content of messages, including message attachments. It also measures space utilization and reclamation statistics. Additionally, the product examines and reports on the growth rate of e-mail at both enterprise and individual levels. And most attractively, it can also generate these reports without any end user disruption.

Other specialized tools exist that provide additional insight into each organization's e-mail environment. For those companies looking to meet legal reporting requirements, E-mailXaminer from Legato Systems Inc., Mountain View, CA, enables administrators and auditors at the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) to monitor both incoming and outgoing electronic communications.

Meeting new legal e-mail requirements is a huge job. Mary Kay

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Roberto, KVS Inc.'s North America general manager, says that the SEC requires the capture of every e-mail coming in and out of the system before the user even receives the e-mail. Under SEC Rules 17a-3 and 17a-4, financial institutions must keep information for three years, with two years of the information remaining easily accessible. More specific requirements exist for broker/dealers under NASD regulations 3010 and 3110.

The compliance officer tasked with the supervision of that data scans some incoming and outgoing e-mail messages manually and runs key word scripts that search all of e-mail to ensure regulatory compliance.

E-mail backup management

For reporting at an operating system level, storage administrators may want to turn to Double-Take, a product from NSI Software, which is located in Hoboken, NJ. While this product usually gets billed as a Windows-based replication tool, it can also unobtrusively gather more technical statistics on e-mail databases. It can gather statistics such as the amount of read and write I/Os generated by the e-mail application, how long an e-mail database file system replication would take and it can also identify peak periods of e-mail activity.

From data gathered, Jason Buffington, the director of business continuity at NSI Software, located in Hoboken, NJ, says that NSI has found that in many of its customer environments, 95% of e-mail I/O traffic is read and only about 5% is write.

These kinds of statistics will help storage managers to better determine exactly where to place the e-mail data on arrays and figure out how to configure the arrays themselves. In cases such as the 95% read I/O statistic, storage managers will probably want to place this e-mail data on mirrored disk to expedite I/O traffic. They may also want to load these arrays with extra cache to further improve performance because if the e-mail message is prefetched from disk to cache, the response will be even quicker.

The e-mail server's performance may take a hit, depending on the nature of the e-mail management software running. NSI's Buffington reports that NSI's Double-Take software usually results in an average CPU utilization hit of 2% to 5%, although that percentage will certainly vary, depending on the mail server's write I/O load.

Others such as Sherpa Software caution users that the load users will experience will be a direct correlation to the number of mailboxes on the server, what reports users run, how many reports they run and the conditions and actions of the rules users put in place. Sherpa Software finds that most of its customers usually choose to schedule rules to be run late at night, when e-mail traffic is at its lowest point.

E-mail management

This was first published in February 2004

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