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Symantec shops hail Enterprise Vault archiving software

Attendees at Symantec Vision say that archiving with Enterprise Vault has taken pressure off their Microsoft Exchange environments and cut cost during litigation. But performance issues occurred with SATA drives.

LAS VEGAS -- With e-discovery regulations getting more stringent and email data continuing to grow, many users at the Symantec Vision conference were crediting Symantec's Enterprise Vault archiving software with saving them time and storage space in email management and litigation support. However, some users had concerns about the archiving software's performance with SATA drives under certain conditions.

A representative for the UZ Leuven, the largest hospital in Belgium, discussed the hospital's use of Enterprise Vault during a session at the conference. The hospital rolled out Microsoft Exchange about three years ago along with NetApp storage. Asked which NetApp filers run in his environment, Reinoud Reynders, IT manager for UZ Leuven, said, "We have almost everything.".

Nevertheless, the 1 million emails that the hospital was generating each month were soon overwhelming the email systems and the storage infrastructure. Reynders evaluated archiving systems from Zantaz (now owned by Autonomy) and IXOS (now owned by Open Text), before choosing Enterprise Vault because it was the only software that made archived emails available offline and allowed direct retrieval of emails from the archive through the Outlook email client. (Autonomy Zantaz and Open Text now offer those features.)

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Enterprise Vault "has allowed us to eliminate email quotas and cut down our help desk calls, Reynders said. "Before [deploying] the archive, 25% of our help desk calls were mail-related." His archive is currently 1.7 TB with compression and single-instancing, compared to a 1 TB Exchange database.

The hospital archives everything except users' inboxes, spam and deleted items every seven days. It archives inboxes after 30 days. The mail is replaced in the Outlook client with a stub comprised of the first 500 characters of the email, which is often enough to include the entire original message. "Most users don't notice," Reynders said.

UZ Leuven also cited a study of its IT environment commissioned by NetApp and conducted by Mainstay Partners. The study showed that Enterprise Vault had reduced email storage by 50 percent and calculated a 27-month ROI (no specific financial numbers were given).

Attendees in the audience from the U.S. were concerned about the differences between compliance and litigation regulations in Europe and America. Reynders said the hospital uses Symantec's Sygate Management Server to scan for all emails with personal patient identification numbers and archives electronic patient records in a separate system. "Still, it's very easy to use email for sharing patient information, and patients want to use it," he said. "We're working on a separate Web portal for doctors and patients to communicate."

"What about deletion?" asked co-panelist Mark Olsen, director of controls and compliance for North American telecom Mitel. "We decided to delete aggressively from our archives because you don't want to end up with a 'smoking gun' email."

"We've never been asked to produce email in a lawsuit, yet," Reynders said, drawing incredulous laughter from a mostly U.S. audience. UZ Leuven may in time turn on what Reynders called "compliance-ready" features, such as WORM and journaling.

Olsen said that while the natural inclination is to use low-cost, high-capacity SATA disks for archiving with Enterprise Vault, as UZ Leuven has done, "the downside is Enterprise Vault sometimes has to reindex all the content if there's corruption. You can pay a real performance penalty if you use cheap disk."

Another Enterprise Vault user, Nelsin Martinez, assistant director for the city of Miami Beach, has been able to avoid that problem and still use cheap disk by putting IBM's SAN Volume Controller in front of Enterprise Vault and the IBM DS4700 array it's running on. "We read and write to memory in the SVC, which has anywhere from 4 GB to 8 GB of cache," he said.

In a separate user panel session, Olsen said that Enterprise Vault has been key for his organization in responding to litigation. "It's been a tremendous cost saver for us because we've been able to avoid having to outsource our e-discovery activities," he said. However, he declined to disclose those cost savings. Mitel uses the Discovery Acceleration Module for Enterprise Vault, which includes case management and legal hold features, as well as indexing and search.

Symantec also announced a set of Enterprise Vault e-discovery connectors last August that preserve the chain of custody for data between the archive and commonly used legal review applications, but Olsen said it's not yet available for the application Mitel wants to use, FTI Ringtail ediscovery software. "Once that's in place, we'll have a full supply chain to support the legal department," he said.

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