Direct Media looked for help to handle increasing e-mail volume

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Challenge: Storing and maintaining a growing cache of e-mail records was becoming more costly and challenging for list manager Direct Media. The nature of its business requires the list company to constantly transmit large files such as PDFs and Excel spreadsheets to clients as e-mail attachments. That meant the growth of its e-mail volume accelerated at a rapid pace.

Using Microsoft Outlook and Exchange for in-house e-mail management, e-mails had been stored and then archived in Microsoft PST files, which contain and compress data. The problem began when the system maxed out on storage space for e-mail. As files became bigger, the system became less efficient, and storage and retention became more problematic.

"We had an older hardware infrastructure, and we were running out of space for archive e-mail storage," said Kevin Ladd, director of infrastructure at Direct Media. "The Microsoft PST files were exceeding the specified maximum size, and when that happens, they start to corrupt and you start to lose data. We saw it coming."

The problem is not limited to list management companies. "There are very few companies today that don't deal with a significant number of attachments as well as increasing e-mail," said Mary Kay Roberto, senior VP-general manager of KVault Software (KVS), a unit of Veritas.

Ladd said accessing PST files was becoming problematic for another reason. Users needed to be able to easily access archived e-mail in order to sell and market list products effectively. They also needed the ability to do so beyond their desktop PC.

"Any time a user tried to access PST files from a new location, they needed IT's help to get at them," Ladd said. "Our e-mail system was becoming more of a file transfer system instead of a messaging system."

The list company's marketing strength lies in its ability to constantly manipulate, move, store and access the data it manages. "From a marketing standpoint, being able to go back to a version of a contract or a proposal or a PowerPoint" is integral to effective marketing, Roberto said.

Solution: Direct Media began to look at alternatives for e-mail maintenance and storage. "We wanted something that would help us manage archives over time, not just compress it and forget about it," Ladd said.

At the time, Direct Media was working with KVS on a separate storage project. When Ladd asked about e-mail storage, KVS suggested the "Vault," its proprietary archiving software platform. "We were pretty much sold the minute we saw the Vault," Ladd said.

The Vault allowed Direct Media to manage e-mail files, move them around, compress them and migrate archived data. The alternative would have been to continue to buy additional disk space to accommodate the e-mail volume. "We wanted to put an end to buying more and more disk space," Ladd said.

The Vault, which is Web-based, enabled Direct Media to achieve several important objectives. First, it automatically compressed the attachments users were transmitting. Second, it allowed users to access their entire e-mail mailbox, including archives, through the Web without assistance from the IT department. "Before, you could only get what was in your regular e-mail box, not your archived e-mail," Ladd said.

Third, it provided easy management of files and folders.

Finally, the Vault is indexed. That means users were able to search the entire e-mail archive within seconds, including searching attachments. "It's a huge time-saver," Ladd said. "It searches attachments as well-Excel spreadsheets, PDFs," he said.

Results: Direct Media said the new archiving system has benefited its staff in important ways. One quantifiable result was that implementing the new system, which required an initial investment of less than $30,000, has saved the company roughly $60,000 in hardware costs. "We calculated what we would have had to replace to maintain the system we had," Ladd said.

Other benefits included the trimming of help desk hours, users' time and administrative time.

Direct Media continues to pay an annual fee of less than $5,000 to Veritas, which acquired KVS last September.

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