These days, a construction company cant just put up a building and then move on after the ribbon-cutting ceremonies. At Webcor Builders Inc., in San Mateo, Calif., more than 200GB of documents associated with the construction of some of Silicon Valleys most prestigious corporate campuses is stored and archived using Symantec Corp.s Veritas Enterprise Vault.
During a recent visit, eWEEK Labs was impressed with the efficiencies Webcor has gained via its archiving solution. By automating the process of storing e-mail and ensuring that data is easily searchable for litigation or regulatory compliance purposes, Webcor has shortened the time it takes to locate specific documents from days to less than 2 hours.
"Archiving has become absolutely essential to our business because of the liability issues we face," said Gregg Davis, CIO of Webcor. "Were running [more than] 20 construction projects totaling more than $100 million, so its essential that we have access to all the documents associated with a particular project."
Webcor has built more than 50 million square feet of projects since it was founded in 1971. The company has approximately 800 employees and open contracts worth more than $1.3 billion.
To comply with industry regulations, Webcor keeps all documentation for commercial building projects for at least seven years. Documents associated with home and condominium projects are kept for a minimum of 10 years. Every document related to a project—whether its an e-mail message from the owner approving the move of a bathrooms location or notes taken from a meeting on the construction of an office tower—must be archived and stored.
Webcor used to rely on faxes to exchange construction documents, but e-mail changed everything. By the 1990s, documents for the construction of a 60-story building could involve e-mail attachments as large as 20MB. "With people sending very large attachments, we were facing a large storage and management issue that we knew had to change," Davis said.
Faced with backing up a 200GB Microsoft Corp. Exchange store every night, Davis in 1999 began looking for a solution to ensure that documents relevant to the business were stored and archived in a reliable fashion.
He wanted a centralized solution that made all documents accessible from one location, and it had to automate the archiving process. He also needed search capabilities that could quickly locate documents by type, project or client.
After looking at several options, Webcor in 2000 decided to deploy Enterprise Vault on a Hewlett-Packard Co. server and archive to a PeerStorage array solution from EqualLogic Inc. using iSCSI.
The company is currently running Enterprise Vault 5.1 and plans an upgrade to Enterprise Vault 6.0 by the end of this year. Webcor is also using Microsofts Exchange 2003 and Exchange 2000.
To ensure that all data is archived, the company performs a full Exchange server backup every night and completes a full Enterprise Vault backup once a week. A snapshot of the SAN (storage area network) is taken every 4 hours to ensure that a duplicate copy is always on hand.
The number of mailboxes to be archived wasnt a major concern when Webcor was planning deployment of its archiving solution, Davis said. Rather, the size of attachments—among them, large architectural blueprints—was seen as a potential problem. However, because Enterprise Vault automatically moves all attachments into an archive while leaving the body of each e-mail on the Exchange server, few people have exceeded their 100MB mailbox quota, Davis said.
Webcor uses Captaris Inc.s RightFax server software to ensure that all inbound faxes are sent to addressees e-mail boxes and saved in PDF format.
"We require our subcontractors to meet a minimum technology standard that includes being on a system that can receive a minimum of 5MB attachments," Davis said.
To search the e-mail archive, Webcor uses an add-on Enterprise Vault option called Discovery Accelerator that allows the companys legal team to search through archived messages based on file type, project or sender.
The search tool also allows users to search the body of messages as well as the interior of attachments. This capability has allowed Webcor attorneys to speed up the time spent searching for subpoenaed documents from days to hours.
"Its the nature of the construction business that we get subpoenaed and are asked to turn over our documents," Davis said. "Its a daunting task to go through somebody elses e-mail to produce all the documents related to a project that was completed three years ago. The Discovery tool makes it a lot easier for our legal team."
Senior Writer Anne Chen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.