Nonprofit taps SaaS to tame email storage sprawl

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society consolidates email disaster recovery and access for thousands of mailboxes in 103 locations using Fortiva's hosted service.

A cancer research organization turned to Fortiva Inc.'s Storage-as-a-Service (SaaS) archiving suite to take control of bulging Exchange stores and proliferating .pst files generated by thousands of employees.

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) was struggling with about 1.5 TB of Exchange data on its production server and another 750 GB of .pst files on a 1 TB Dell SAN the organization purchased about four and a half years ago. With 1,500 full-time employees and another 1,000 part-time employees and volunteers in 103 locations, managing that storage was also a logistical hassle, according to Claude Edkins, LLS vice president of technology infrastructure.

Supervisors of employees leaving the society are granted access to all email files for that employee, but approximately 12 million inbound messages flow through the organization per year and many of them pile up. "We needed to keep the email in case it was needed later on, but supervisors rarely access that data," Edkins said. "We didn't want to leave the files sitting on our disk and keep regularly backing them up."

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Preparing for disaster

In addition to filling up three-quarters of the organization's networked storage, restoring that much data to an Exchange server in the event of a total system failure represented a daunting task. "In a total disaster, we couldn't restore back to our production server -- we'd have to restore elsewhere," Edkins said. Building up the server from bare metal and then restoring all 1.5 TB would be time-consuming, but Fortiva's SaaS allows access to older email through a Web interface. That would let the LLS disaster recovery team focus on getting the production server and most recent data up and running faster.

Edkins said he gave little consideration to an on-premise archive. Instead, he first learned about MCI's hosted archiving option, but said it was expensive. He couldn't name the price because he's under contract with MCI for other IT services and is under an NDA on pricing. "Once I found out Fortiva was under the covers [of MCI's hosted archive], I went straight to them," he said.

Cost analysis

Edkins said the cost for about 3,500 mailboxes with Fortiva is about $90,000 a year, and he added that Fortiva gave him a discount off the list price of $60 per user per year by not counting nonuser mailboxes, such as mailing lists. But Edkins said he was not offered what he would consider an unusual discount. "Everyone cuts their list price to gain business," he said.

Edkins estimated that a new storage area network (SAN) to archive email would run around $90,000, plus between $12,000 and $18,000 per year in maintenance. And that doesn't count the cost of email archiving software and server appliances.

Price has been one of the biggest obstacles to hosted services, but SaaS vendors have been more aggressive in pricing lately. Fortiva product manager Rick Dales said Fortiva's pricing has dropped steadily over the last 18 months as the company adds customers, administers the service more efficiently and faces a growing list of competitors. Fortiva and competitors, such as MessageOne Inc., have also begun rolling out cut-rate archiving services with slightly fewer features to reach further downmarket. These types of services favor organizations, such as LLS, which have relatively small amounts of data.

The Fortiva archiving service has been rolled out into production for the entire LLS organization, but .pst files have yet to be moved into the archive. That step will be completed this spring using a NAS device to send the files to Fortiva. Edkins said his wish list includes the ability to retain the file structure users have grown accustomed to with .pst files within the organization. "When Fortiva reindexes those messages, that folder structure goes away," he said. For the LLS Mac-centric creative services team, Edkins said he's hoping the Web-based search portal for the Fortiva archive will soon support Firefox and Safari browsers in addition to Internet Explorer.

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