Microsoft Exchange Hosted Services Customer Solution Case Study




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Microsoft Exchange Hosted Services

Customer Solution Case Study
















Web Design Firm Eliminates Spam and Sustains E-Mail Service During Internet Outage








Overview

Country or Region: United Kingdom

Industry: Professional services—Software engineering
Customer Profile

Founded in 2001 in Edinburgh, Scotland, Storm ID is a full-service Web consulting and development company. Its 20 employees work with public and private organizations in a range of industries.


Business Situation

The firm needed to eliminate up to 60,000 spam messages per day to help employees respond more efficiently to genuine e-mail. It also needed to ensure e-mail continuity if its Internet connection failed.


Solution

Storm ID engaged The Adventi Group to set up Microsoft® Exchange Hosted Archive for more accessible record storage and business continuity, and Exchange Hosted Filtering to filter out spam and viruses.


Benefits

  • Restored e-mail credibility

  • Slowed growth of inbox data

  • Achieved corporate-level protection

  • Maintained business continuity, avoided revenue loss

  • Gained peace of mind










“With Exchange Hosted Services, we can focus on developing solutions for our clients rather than on how to get rid of spam, or whether the records we need are being stored correctly in e-mail.”

Simon Wall, Managing Director, Storm ID










Storm ID relies heavily on e-mail to support its Web design and software development business. With the company receiving up to 60,000 spam messages each day, it became very time-consuming for employees to find legitimate e-mail messages. In addition, many employees saved important e-mail on their local hard drives and on the server, creating large inboxes and duplicate messages, and making it difficult to locate important records. Working with The Adventi Group, a Microsoft® Gold Certified Partner, Storm ID subscribed to Microsoft Exchange Hosted Services, which provides corporate-level filtering and archiving services for the 20-member firm. These services helped the firm virtually eliminate spam and viruses, slow inbox growth, restore the credibility of e-mail messages, and continue normal operations during a three-day Internet outage.

























Situation

Storm ID, based in Edinburgh, Scotland, provides all of the services necessary to plan, design, build, and market Web solutions. The firm is a Microsoft® Gold Certified Partner and has worked with a range of private and public sector organizations in the education, financial, healthcare, leisure, and software industries. It provides its clients with end-to-end digital solutions, strategic consultancy, creative design, software development, and d

“Within a day of implementing the Exchange Hosted Filtering service, spam had stopped completely.”

Simon Wall, Managing Director, Storm ID






igital marketing and hosting services.
Founded in 2001 with 6 employees, the company grew rapidly to include 18 full-time and several contract employees by 2008. With that growth came complexity and increased demand on its computing systems, particularly its e-mail server, which runs Microsoft Exchange Server 2003. E-mail is critical to the company’s operations because it is used to document all project communications and reviews, technical signoffs, and contract signoffs in addition to being used for day-to-day communications.
The company averaged 45,000 to 65,000 e-mail messages a day, only 5,000 to 6,000 of which were legitimate messages. The rest were spam. Some of the spam was caught and sent to the junk e-mail box and some was caught by a free antispam component that was attached to Exchange Server. A lot of spam got through, however, which slowed the server and consumed valuable Internet bandwidth.
The volume of spam also hampered employee productivity, especially for developers who relied on e-mail to monitor the performance of the applications they were building and to keep up to date with current development practices. “Our developers like to focus on the work, so it was really annoying, if not impossible, to filter out the spam from the communications they really needed to respond to,” says Simon Wall, Managing Director of Storm ID. “The credibility of e-mail was compromised because the important messages were getting lost in reams of spam every day. Project managers constantly had to follow up by telephone to make sure developers saw the critical e-mail messages.” On the other hand, some legitimate messages were caught in the spam screen so staff members also had to review those messages to ensure that they weren’t missing important communications.
Another challenge the company faced was retaining and archiving important e-mail messages. “For our public sector and healthcare clients, we need to make sure that we keep a record of all of our communications related to a project for about six years,” says Wall. “A lot of the contracts that we work on and the communications around them are managed through e-mail, and we kept track of those communications by saving them in separate folders.”
Each Storm ID employee was responsible for saving project-related e-mail communications to a network server. However, some employees saved files to both their local hard disk and the server. As a result, the average inbox in Microsoft Office Outlook® 2007 messaging and collaboration client had 4 gigabytes of data, which made finding important messages quite complicated and time-consuming.
Storm ID had already outsourced management of its network and e-mail system to The Adventi Group, also a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner. “We’re a Web software development house, and as we grew, we decided to focus on what we knew best, so we engaged The Adventi Group to manage not just Exchange Server, but all of the other servers that we run,” says Wall.
Storm ID management asked Richard Mason, Presales Security Consultant at Adventi, for a solution to the spam problem and for a more centralized, consistent, and easily searchable archive solution.
Solution

Mason recommended that Storm ID consider subscribing to Microsoft Exchange Hosted Filtering and Exchange Hosted Archive—two of the four services that comprise Exchange Hosted Services. Exchange Hosted Filtering routes inbound and outbound e-mail through multiple filters to block viruses, worms, and spam from reaching the customer’s network. Exchange Hosted Archive saves a copy of all filtered e-mail messages to a security-enhanced online message repository. The service eliminates duplicates and indexes messages based on the header, subject line, message body, and attachments to optimize storage and make it easier to retrieve messages through an easy-to-use Web interface.


Exchange Hosted Archive also ensures that e mail service is accessible even if the network connection goes down. Users can access their archive mail store through a security-enhanced Web interface in which they can also compose and send messages in real time during an e-mail system outage. When the primary e-mail system is restored, all messages received during the outage are automatically restored to the user’s original inbox. Users also have the option of restoring messages sent during the outage. “Based on the service level agreement provided by Exchange Hosted Services, it made perfect sense to go with this kind of a service,” says Wall.
Storm ID subscribed to Exchange Hosted Filtering and Exchange Hosted Archive in mid-January 2008. To implement the Hosted Filtering, Adventi made a simple change to the mail exchange record, which rerouted all messages to the Exchange Hosted Services network. No additional hardware, software, or downtime was required.
“Within a day of implementing the Exchange Hosted Filtering service, spam had stopped completely,” Wall recalls. “Our corporate network and e-mail worked a lot quicker, and our staff members’ inboxes weren’t full of spam. We get regular e-mail reports telling us the amount of spam that was intercepted, and we can log in at any time to see our individual spam quarantine accounts in real time. We can review the list to reinstate any e-mail that isn’t spam.”
To implement the Exchange Hosted Archive service, it took Microsoft about 10 days to build the Exchange Hosted Archive database. Then the service started saving a copy of the filtered messages to the archive on the Microsoft Exchange Hosted Services network.
Although it was obvious to Storm ID employees that Exchange Hosted Filtering was in place, the archive service was transparent to users—at least until an outage occurred. About six weeks after Exchange Hosted Archive was set up, the local telephone exchange that provided the firm’s Internet connection had an issue during a maintenance project. That issue resulted in the entire exchange going offline for an extended period. The firm had been warned that there could be intermittent outages during the maintenance that would last no more than 10 minutes, but when the system didn’t come back after an hour, Storm ID contacted Mason at Adventi, to find out how to access its Exchange Hosted Archive service.
“Richard was very proactive in getting passwords to us and telling us how to use Exchange Hosted Archive,” says Wall. “It happened very quickly, and within just a few hours we had all the information that we needed to start using the continuity features of Exchange Hosted Archive.”
Once Storm ID employees regained access to the Internet—from their backup integrated services digital network (ISDN) line in the office, from wireless networks at Internet cafes, or from home—they were able to access their e-mail and send and receive messages through the security-enhanced Web interface. “Many of our people didn’t know that Exchange Hosted Archive existed until we needed it, so they were clearly delighted to find out that we had it,” says Wall.


“Exchange Hosted Archive provides full visibility of e-mail communications, both internally and externally, which is particularly important for keeping an accurate record of all the project communications.”

Simon Wall, Managing Director, Storm ID







It turned out that the Internet connection was out for three days, so the Storm ID staff had a long test run of the continuity features in Exchange Hosted Archive. “The ability to communicate with clients in e-mail in the normal way made a huge difference,” Wall says. “The perception was that with the Exchange Hosted Archive service it was business as usual. And as soon as the Internet came back on, we switched back to our internal Exchange Server system without a gap.”


Benefits

By subscribing to Microsoft Exchange Hosted Services, Storm ID virtually eliminated spam and viruses, reclaimed an average of 30 minutes a day per employee, and slowed the growth of inbox data. In addition, by providing e-mail continuity during a major Internet service outage, it was able to maintain its communication with clients, which helped avoid revenue loss. In combination, these benefits provide the company with peace of mind from having corporate-level filtering and archiving services.


Restored E-Mail Credibility

Wall estimates that the reduction of spam from up to 60,000 messages a day to virtually zero saves each worker an average of 30 minutes a day of separating spam from legitimate e-mail. The elimination of spam has also restored the developers’ and project staff’s confidence that the e-mail they are receiving is authentic. “Our staff is working more efficiently now with Exchange Hosted Filtering because the developers and project team members know that the e-mail they’re getting is important and they need to respond to it,” says Wall. “Before we had this service, I was frequently getting e-mail messages from staff saying ‘this spam is killing me.’ I don’t get those messages anymore.”


Exchange Hosted Filtering has also nearly eliminated instances of legitimate messages being classified as spam. “I check the spam list regularly, and so far there hasn’t been one instance where an e-mail message addressed to me has been filtered out that shouldn’t have been,” says Wall. “Exchange Hosted Filtering has really restored the credibility of our e-mail so that we can respond more efficiently to clients.”
Slowed the Growth of Inbox Data

Because the nature of its business requires exchanging large files with clients through e 0mail, Storm ID couldn’t effectively restrict the size of staffers’ inboxes. However, in the past the firm ran up against the physical limitations of the file servers. “We receive large files from clients all the time with databases, graphics, or large documents to be published on Web sites,” says Wall. “Every so often, we would get a message from the technical director saying that the mail server was filling up and that we needed to clear out our .pst files. We haven’t gotten one of those messages since we set up Exchange Hosted Filtering, because we can now delete important or large files from our local Office Outlook inboxes, knowing that if we need them again, we can quickly view or restore them from our online archive.”


Achieved Corporate-Level Protection at an Affordable Price

Storm ID appreciates the fact that the pricing model for Exchange Hosted Services is based on the number of e-mail accounts. “With Exchange Hosted Services, we get corporate-level archiving, business continuity, and spam filtering at a very affordable price, even though we have a relatively small number of users,” says Wall. “Also, with the service we have from Exchange Hosted Services and Adventi, we haven’t had to employ anybody to take care of our e-mail and look after our network, which means we’ve been able to avoid about £30,000 (U.S.$59,118) per year in additional salary.”


Maintained Business Continuity, Avoided Revenue Loss

When Storm ID lost Internet connectivity for three days, Exchange Hosted Archive proved invaluable to maintaining its responsiveness to clients. “By creating a dynamic Web development environment, we’ve built our reputation on providing an immediate response to clients,” says Wall. “Having the level of business continuity provided by Exchange Hosted Archive is important for all of our clients, but it’s especially important for our public sector clients because having a comprehensive business continuity plan in place is a requirement for many government contracts.”


Storm ID estimates that the financial impact of the loss of recurring business and lost future opportunities due to the three-day outage could have been between £10,000 and £20,000 (U.S.$19,707–$39,414). And maybe even more important than the financial impact, the interrupted Internet connection could have damaged the company’s reputation. “If our e-mail is down, it’s a poor reflection on our services, so from a reputation point of view it could have been damaging.”
Gained Peace of Mind

With Exchange Hosted Archive, Storm ID now has one centralized location where the administrator can access all e-mail accounts to ensure that the information within the archive is accurate and complete. “Exchange Hosted Archive provides full visibility of e-mail communications, both internally and externally, which is particularly important for keeping an accurate record of all the project communications,” says Wall.


Exchange Hosted Archive also makes it easier to maintain continuity if someone new takes over a project in progress. The new person can review the e-mail archives to get a clear view of the project status and issues so that there is minimal ramp-up time. Storm ID staffers are also able to locate specific e-mail items, such as project signoffs or contracts, in just minutes compared with the several hours that it took before to search through .pst files archived on tape or other media.
“From my point of view, it’s all about peace of mind,” says Wall. “With Exchange Hosted Services, we can focus on developing solutions for our clients rather than on how to get rid of spam, or whether the records we need are being stored correctly in e-mail.”

For More Information

For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234 in the United States or (905) 568-9641 in Canada. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to: www.microsoft.com


For more information about The Adventi Group products and services, visit the Web site at:

www.adventi.com
For more information about Storm ID products and services, visit the Web site at: www.stormid.com


This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Document published June 2008










Software and Services

  • Microsoft Server Product Portfolio

  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2003

  • Services

  • Microsoft Exchange Hosted Archive

  • Microsoft Exchange Hosted Filtering

Partners

  • The Adventi Group



Microsoft Exchange Hosted Services

Microsoft Exchange Hosted Services (formerly FrontBridge Technologies) offer an easy-to- use way for enterprises to actively ensure the security and availability of their e-mail environment, while instilling confidence that their e-mail processes satisfy internal policy and regulatory compliance requirements. A seamless extension of Microsoft Exchange Server that operates at the Internet-level, the complete line of services includes hosted filtering for active spam and virus protection; hosted archiving to satisfy compliance requirements and internal policies; hosted encryption to preserve e-mail confidentiality; and hosted continuity for ongoing access to e-mail during and after disasters. Microsoft Exchange Hosted Services provide value to corporate customers by requiring no upfront capital investment, minimizing IT management overhead, and removing incoming e-mail threats before they reach the corporate firewall.


For more information, visit:

www.microsoft.com/online


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