Stubs Used to Manage Attachments

Posted 2010-03-09

Tangent's DataCove DT Eases E-Mail Archiving

By: Frank Ohlhorst dnu

Many businesses are struggling to meet compliance requirements, and for most, the biggest challenge is e-mail. E-mail compliance is a complex endeavor, since administrators need to save e-mail conversations, archive them, build indexes and have a means to retrieve those conversations. What's more, the stored conversations must be protected from tampering and deletion.

Fortunately, there is help for performing these tasks, and Tangent's DataCove DT appliance is one such solution. It provides one of the quickest methods to meet SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley Act) and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliance for e-mail archiving, combining comprehensive auditing, reporting and archiving of e-mail traffic across an enterprise. And it works seamlessly with the market-leading e-mail servers.

DataCove brings several unique features to the market, such as e-mail stubbing capabilities, which simplify the movement of e-mails from an active e-mail server to an archive server. Stubbing, which is very important in large-volume environments, works by placing a link to an e-mail in the user's in-box, while storing the actual e-mail (and attachments) on a different server.

In addition, DataCove provides robust e-mail compatibility, with support for Exchange, GroupWise, Notes, iMail, Zimbra, Postfix and generic SMTP/POP3/IMAP systems. Plus, not only does it store e-mails, but it also stores fax and VOIP (voice over IP) communications. And for those enterprises that need to archive instant messaging conversations, DataCove offers support for MSN, ICQ and AIM.

The DataCove DT appliance is simple to deploy, as it leverages setup wizards that make it very easy to configure. After the initial installation and configuration, it took me only a few minutes to learn the basics of the unit. The device is managed from a browser-based console that proved to be very intuitive. Getting up to speed on the management console took but a few minutes, and administrators familiar with e-mail servers should have no issues hitting the ground running. DataCove DT uses e-mail journaling or SMTP for collecting and archiving messages, and can access messages from POP and IMAP servers.

While simplicity is the rule of the day with DataCove DT, there may be a downside for those running Microsoft's Exchange Server. Administrators managing an Exchange instance will need to turn on journaling to comply with regulatory requirements. Journaling doubles the storage requirements and increases the workload on an Exchange server. As a result, journaling can severely tax an Exchange server, especially if mail folders, contacts, calendars and other documents are also archived. Installing a DataCove DT may force an organization to upgrade Exchange servers to meet the increased processing demands of journaling. Administrators will also have to purchase additional storage necessary for journaling.

Stubs Used to Manage Attachments


DataCove DT uses stubs to manage attachments, which, like journaling, increase storage demands. Most administrators have resigned themselves to increased storage costs when archiving attachments. However, Tangent has a trick up its sleeve when it comes to stubs and attachments. The company reduces storage needs by storing messages directly on the appliance with ZIP compression to reduce the size of the archived messages and attachments. The inclusion of compression has a profound impact on storage requirements, so much so that the internal storage requirements on the DataCove DT appliance are reduced significantly.

DataCove DT takes advantage of SMTP push technology, which is available on many messaging systems-including Sendmail, Qmail and GroupWise. SMTP push technology works hand in hand with DataCove's SMTP listener, which I found quite easy to set up using a wizard. For e-mail solutions that lack journaling support or SMTP push technology, DataCove DT achieves archiving with support for POP- and IMAP-compatible e-mail systems. DataCove's SMTP listener is capable of accessing intranet as well as WAN and Internet messages. The appliance can generate or obtain certificates for message authentication, and even provide digital signing. Enterprises that support multiple e-mail systems and different e-mail technologies in branch offices can leverage DataCove DT's ability to archive messages from multiple e-mail servers simultaneously. Administrators starting to build an archive can get a head start by importing PST files, as well as live Exchange server message files.

It took me only a few minutes to master the device's user interface, thanks to an effective layout of the management console. The management UI is presented via four tabs: for searching, auditing, configuration and usage tracking. My review unit had several messages already archived, so I was immediately able to test the unit's search capabilities.

DataCove offers some very sophisticated auditing and search capabilities: Administrators will be able to search and filter information by IP address, message description, actions taken on messages and date ranges to build effective audit reports. Additional searches can be performed using phrase matching and Boolean logic, and administrators can also add filters and other flags to speed up searches. 

The unit's search functions rely on date ranges to find messages quicker. However, the 4.81.3 version I tested has a small bug: The date fields are not validated by the search engine before the search takes place-if you accidentally blank out the "before" and "after" search dates, the search will fail with a message saying that the search is not numeric. To bypass the bug, just add today's date with a time stamp on the blank fields, and the search feature will start working again.

Over time, the unit will gather more and more messages, and administrators will need to keep an eye on usage. DataCove makes that easy to do with the system status screen, which displays usage statistics and offers a historical list of system events, as well as a list of currently running processes. A configuration tab lets administrators set up default processes and customize the unit's capabilities. Although the list of options is extensive, I found it easy to navigate through the various choices. For example, it took very little effort to configure the unit to access multiple domains, as well as add journal accounts, define policies and create stubbing rules.

Stubbing, archiving and retention rules are simple to configure and test. Those rules use simple word matching and Boolean logic to collect messages. DataCove provides fields from message properties in the rules that simplify the whole identification process. Novice administrators should not have a problem creating new rules, although figuring out which messages are important to keep takes a little more work.

Messages are encrypted with triple DES to prevent unauthorized access. Administrators can also define roles, which control how power users and junior administrators can access the messages. When auditing, the messages are linked by an encrypted number generated by the appliance. By clicking on the encrypted key, the link opens up the message. DataCove automatically creates a comprehensive audit log, which offers the ability to track global events, as well as user and auditor events. The log also includes searches performed during audits, and this can confuse first-time users. 

DataCove's support plans and warranty offer comprehensive coverage of the device and its included services. Administrators have the option to purchase hard drive protection plans, on-site technical support and warranties that cover just about everything, including accidental damages.

DataCove DT proved to be very easy to install and manage, and most any-level administrators should be able to learn how to use the device in a few minutes. Most businesses will find after running a DataCove DT appliance for just a few days that the device may be the best way for them to handle the thorny issues surrounding e-mail archiving and compliance.

Pricing for DataCove starts at $6,190 for the basic DC500 unit-which can archive messages from 500 e-mail users-and ranges through the DC8000 enterprise-level appliance.

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