In today’s business world, email is as vital as the telephone and fax. But for corporate IT managers, email is “a huge pain with no gain,” posits Dave Leonard, Chief Technology Officer for (i)Structure, since “there are no thanks when email is working and immediate escalation when it is not.” Corporate email providers have to deal with the deluge of spam that can clog a network. They also have to deal with the dangers of destructive viruses and worms that can take PCs out of action, especially if they are using Microsoft Exchange, the most widely-used and widely-attacked email program.
Not to mention email is one of the most visible of a company’s IT functions; everyone expects to download their mail as fast as possible 100 percent of the time, and everyone knows when the mail server goes down.
In addition, Microsoft requires a minimum of 14 servers to run Exchange 2003 in order to provide all services and to be compliant with Microsoft’s “prescriptive architecture.” Companies facing budget cuts have been running the program on less than the ideal number of servers “compromising the program’s performance, features, safety, and overall reliability of that environment,” reports Leonard.
Because email is an expense, not a profit center, many companies have not upgraded their email software in the last five years. Anyone using Microsoft Exchange 5.5 has a new problem: on December 31 Microsoft will no longer offer standard support for this older version of its email software. This can become problematic, especially since many companies are running it “on creaky hardware that is expensive to support,” says Leonard.
Companies still using 5.5 can outsource this email function to (i)Structure, an IT infrastructure company whose core competency is running mission-critical IT functions for its customers. The new service offering is called iConnection. (i)Structure has been running this version of Exchange since 2003 because it inherits the program when it takes over the IT functions of a new client. Currently (i)Structure is running 15,000 seats on Microsoft Exchange, Leonard says.
An Email Guarantee of 99.99 Percent
Leonard says iConnection’s virus protection is “as good as it gets.” It checks for viruses on three different levels including at the individual mailbox. The company is so certain of its performance, it guarantees email will be available 99.99 percent of the time. “We think that’s no problem,” Leonard explains.
iConnection uses (i)Structure’s border defense system that provides multiple levels of spam detection. Items that are clearly spam “go away and never bother anybody,” Leonard explains. Email that is not so black and white goes through five different algorithms; each method creates a score that are then added together. Next, these items go to a quarantined area; users receive a digest of the identified spam and can sort it as they wish. “We provide individual as well as global spam control,” notes Leonard. Users don’t have to call or email (i)Structure whenever they add or delete a user; instead, they can do this on the Web using the system’s third-party provisioning tool. The system also supports hand-held devices like BlackBerries and smart phones.
Companies can use iConnection in either a dedicated or shared environment. The outsourcer runs its own email in the shared environment to insure the system works properly. In addition, (i)Structure offers its iConnection customers its other benefits. The company’s data centers are redundant, so a power outage, hurricane, tornado, or earthquake won’t impact service. The company has proven back-up procedures and operations monitoring.
Leonard says the program is especially valuable for companies with 25-50 users because they are too small to be able to afford to run an Exchange environment. But, on the other side, (i)Structure is working with a client that has over 100,000 users.