AT&T service takes care of e-mail archiving

Ma Bell is offering to relieve businesses of the complex compliance regulations around e-mail archiving.

PHOENIX -- As compliance deadlines for data retention creep closer companies have another option to deal with this daunting task: hand it over to somebody else.

AT&T has announced an e-mail archiving managed service that offers businesses and US government agencies a way to offload their e-mail archiving, relieving them of untangling complex regulations, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act being the big one.

AT&T's news comes hot on the heels of a similar announcement from its arch rival BT Syntegra, last week. Other e-mail outsourcing suppliers include Iron Mountain and Zantaz.

"Regulation and the explosive growth of e-mail is what's driving this," says Carolyn Hennessey Rose, product director for email archiving at AT&T.

Ma Bell is offering the service in conjunction with e-mail archiving firm KVS and EMC. It has installed KVS's e-mail archiving software and EMC's Centera storage device in two of its data centers on the east and west coasts of the United States.

Customers wishing to hook up to the service can do so via their own carrier, but, AT&T notes that for security reasons the service works better if they are an AT&T customer. [Of course!] "To provide end-to-end SLA (service level agreements) we really need to be responsible for all the links," says Hennessey Rose.

Once the e-mail reaches AT&T's datacenters it is run through the KVS archiving software and tagged to enable searching, indexing and auditing of the files when required. The data is then stores in its original format on the EMC Centera box. Additionally, the solution supports single-instance store capabilities, retaining only one copy of a message or attachment.

Pioneer Investments, a Massachusetts-based financial services firm is the first company to sign up for the service. It was looking for "best-in-breed" technologies to help it with SEC compliance, according to Chris Chapin, vice president of IT at Pioneer. He was unavailable to discuss the implementation in more detail.

AT&T has not announced pricing for the service, but says it plans to try and avoid some of the complex pricing structures offered by its competitors. "They charge for each separate piece of the solution, we plan to offer it as one complete package," Hennessey says.

Analysts warn that one of the pitfalls to watch out for with outsourcing deals is inflexible contracts that might tie customers in to something they wind up not wanting.

AT&T plans to deliver additional application networking capabilities during 2004, including a managed messaging solution this quarter and other mail and storage services enhancements later in the year, the company says.

If the service is successful the company expects to roll it out across its network of 21 Internet data centers operating on four continents, with plans to grow to 25 centers in 2004.

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