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Consultants Corner: It's "Knife" to Know Archiving

Novell Cool Solutions: Feature
By Gregg Hinchman

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Posted: 19 Jun 2007
 

"Driving home this evening, could've sworn we had it all worked out ..." Quite often I find my best articles and solutions come at the wheel of a car. I am not sure what it is, the driving, the break from staring at a computer screen, or the tunes on the radio, but something opens my mind to possibilities.

In an article I wrote last year called "A GroupWise Diet Plan," I discussed e-mail policies and presented a few basic policies for you the reader to ponder, with the premise of reducing the size of your GroupWise system. Since that time, in my travels to visit customers I have seen more of the same problems:

1. E-mail bloat
2. Lawsuits
3. Regulatory compliance issues
4. Audit problems

Monk'd or Punk'd

The solution I see most often for controlling e-mail bloat is either deletion or archiving. I am a big fan of deletion; it's the "Monk" in me. I like things nice and orderly. No need to keep e-mails dating back to the dawn of time or 2000, whichever is your poison. But try to convince end-users of this, or for that matter, management. And if you by a slim chance have been able to implement an e-mail policy that deletes e-mail and attachments, I bet you spend a great amount of time doing restores from backup. As if you have time for that.

Then there is archiving. GroupWise has it built in, and you as an administrator can control the location for end-user archives as well as force auto-archiving. But here's what you end up with - an end user's archive stored in their HOME directory or some such place. And when the archive starts to reach critical mass, somewhere around 4GB, then what do you do? Easy - create a second, third, fourth, etc., archive. And this creates more work for you.

Neither deletion nor GroupWise native archiving solves the bigger problems of lawsuits, regulatory compliance and audits. Ever had a request to search for key words within your GroupWise system or an end user's mailbox, without the person being aware? Now imagine having to add post office restores on top of this in order to go back several months or years to gather deleted e-mails. It is an endless job and usually meets with about 20% success.

I had a customer that got nailed with a lawsuit. The proof they needed to save them was in an e-mail. They spent nearly a year doing restores and searches, hiring a company to do the work for them and in the end, they never found the proof they needed to save them. They lost, and it cost them a huge settlement as well as the cost of the restores and searches.

Lastly, let me address regulatory compliance and audits. I am not an expert in all the regulations that some organizations must comply with, but I know e-mail has to be considered and often used to prove compliance. Audits for compliance can come from internal as well as external sources. Audits do not have to be just about compliance, though; they can be about end-users breaking rules, or (heaven forbid) laws. Audits by Human Resources can and should be proactive, not reactive. Ouch - that sounds like "Big Brother watching." Well, it's not personal e-mail, it's an organizations e-mail - and it's owned by the organization, not the end user. Consider that just one end user can create huge problems for an organization by misusing e-mail.

Thoughts on Policies

I could certainly restate my article about what policies an organization should implement, but that is not what this article is about. Suffice it to say there are two camps: do something or do nothing. Or, should it be: save everything or save nothing. Let me just address one of these - save nothing. Some organizations' legal teams (or upper management) seem to think that deleting all e-mail older than x days and (at an extreme) not backing up more than 1 or 2 days is a solution and will save them. Wrong! Especially wrong if archiving is allowed. Think about it - e-mail can be printed, it can be forwarded, it's replied to, it's sent, it can be archived to HOME directories, or local workstations. The fact is that once an e-mail is sent, it can show up when and where you least expect it. So, isn't it better to be prepared before it hits hard? Also, if in court you have such an extreme policy, but the judge finds it's not being enforced, he can throw out that defense.

What to Do?

So what can a poor administrator do? Not much, I am afraid. As an administrator you are limited to making recommendations. Here are a few you can make:

1. Create and Enforce e-mail Policies
2. Implement an Enterprise Archiving solution
3. Pro actively Audit e-mail

Oh, and by the way - all of these cost money, and in order to work, they must have CxO support - otherwise, they are doomed to fail.

Since 2004, I have been working with GWArchive from the Messaging Architects. To my knowledge, it was the first 3rd-party solution for GroupWise archiving at an enterprise level, as well as for regulatory compliance. It's not the only solution on the market, but it has the longevity of a mature product, as well as a large development and support infrastructure. The latest version 3.2 is a completely new animal from the earlier days. It capitalizes on .NET (which I am sure will lead to Linux MONO in the near future). It uses the concept of policies that are assigned to jobs (I like to call them Events). Policies are as you might expect, and jobs are the scheduling arm of the solution.

In recent months I have had more calls from customers who want GWArchive implemented in order to enforce their corporate policies, as well as to provide system-wide auditing. Along the way, customers find they can offer their end users something they have never had: access to archives from anywhere - anywhere there is a computer, that is. GWArchive offers end users the ability to view their archives via WebAccess. So from home, or wherever they have Internet access to the organization's e-mail system, end users can read current and archived e-mail. To top that, they can search their archives using various methods that are NOT natively available in GroupWise. The methods for searching are:

1. Normal -the standard you find in GroupWise
2. Proximity -a word within x number of words
3. Attachment -searching within an attachment based upon proximity or soundex
4. Audit -Not for end-users. Allows to search an audit trail previously created

Figure 1: WebAccess View of an Archive

Figure 2: WebAccess GWArchive Normal Searching

Figure 3: WebAccess GWArchive Proximity Searching

Figure 4: WebAccess GWArchive Attachment Searching

Get Control

OK, so I showed you a bit of the end user's point of view for GWArchive. How about an administrators point of view? GWArchive comes with a Web Administration piece, making it easy to build, modify or monitor jobs that run the policies. GWArchive has several different components:

  • Node - a server that runs the agents. For growth and scalability your implementation can go from one to many servers (nodes).
  • Agents - they represent different job types that can be run. Archive does archiving, whereas the Export Agent will run jobs that export GroupWise GWArchived data to CD, DVD, etc.
  • Jobs (Events) - the scheduler workhorse for policies. Policies are assigned, then criteria and options are set based upon your needs.
  • Policies - these are your organization's e-mail retention policies brought to life.

Figure 5: GWArchive Archive Web Administration Example

Using the Web Administration that is provided, an administrator can create an Archiving policy that captures all message types including the MIME and text HTML. Allowing users a 7-day window to take action on a message before it's archived ensures an end user can reply, forward, drag to a folder, or delete the message. Finally, the policy will process all unpublished messages (those not previously captured by GWArchive). Add to this a feature called Predictive Searching that speeds the searching for unpublished messages - starting with the current date and moving back in time x days - and you have a speedy little feature-rich archive policy.

Figure 6: GWArchive Archive Policy Example

Did you catch the end-user ability to delete an e-mail? What if you do not want end users to delete e-mails and purge them out of the live GroupWise system before they have been GWArchived? Not a problem - GroupWise natively has Message Retention Service. Since GWArchive takes advantage of the Trusted Application, you can turn the service on. Then, just go into Client Options at the Domain, Post Office, or End User perspective and enable Message Retention Service. But be warned: end users will not be able to empty trash until after it's been stamped with a retention flag, meaning it's been archived by the Trusted App.

Figure 7: GWArchive Trusted Application with Message Retention Service

Figure 8: Client Options Message Retention Service Enabled

Now what about those jobs, or as I like to call them, Events? There are several tabs that allow you to customize how you want the Event to run the policy, as well as monitor it and provide reporting. The Tabs are:

  • Job Settings - Set the Policy, People and Schedule.
  • Criteria -Set the output location, Retention Flags, and handling of personal address books and shared folders.
  • Summary - A quick look at the Event and its set options.
  • History - Displays quick statistics on the last two Event runs.
  • Log - Set the logging options, choose the logs to send out, and choose the SMTP server to send them through.
  • Report - Display some quick charts on various metrics, such as message count per person or per policy implemented.

Figure 9: GWArchive Archive Policy Event Job Settings Example

Figure 10: GWArchive Archive Policy Event Criteria Example

Figure 11: GWArchive Archive Policy Event History Example

Figure 12: GWArchive Archive Policy Event Log Example

Figure 13: GWArchive Archive Policy Event Report Example

Summary

As you can see, there is more to offer with a 3rd-party archiving product then can be had with native GroupWise archiving. And lest we forget, centralizing archiving locations, as well as administration, are just some of the ways to get control of what has become a huge problem in organizations today. Finally, if you are being pressured to provide enterprise ready regulation enforcement and/or full GroupWise Audit functionality that "Cuts like a knife," consider a 3rd-party archiving product.

As always, I can be reached at: Gregg@HinchmanConsulting.com, if you have any comments, article ideas, or just want to help a quirky consultant support his GroupWise habit.


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