Features: August 9th, 2013

Emails create vast amounts of data and the need for storage and retrieval brings a growing demand on resources. This article describes how an archiving facility brought much needed efficiency to the process using the Barracuda Message Archiver

As one of the world’s top educational boarding schools, Wellington College combines the best traditions and values of the past with the energy and ambition of the present. With over 1,100 students and staff using more than 3,500 mobile devices every day, the exchange of email is enormous.

IT communication amongst pupils, and staff alike, is fundamental to a modern school’s success. A large amount of parental communication is carried out via email, and pupils use email as a means of submitting coursework, while staff use it to provide student feedback.

Over the years, Wellington College has accumulated over six terabytes of email data. This data needs to be transmitted and stored across the network daily, as compliance requirements dictate suitable storage and recovery. Additionally, the regular transmitting of this huge amount of data has the negative impact of slowing down network performance. While the ‘physical’ storage requirements for archiving the information are considerable.

IT Director, Tony Whelton said, “Previously, we used a dedicated storage appliance to store our Exchange information but at 6 terabytes (TBs) in size the impact on network was huge when the archiving process was initiated. Additionally there was significant time associated with managing the archiving process which meant our working efficiency was being adversely affected. We were desperately in need of a system whereby the high volume of emails could be managed more efficiently, and without disrupting the network performance.”

Email archiving – a modern solution

As part of its process of improvement, Whelton believed that a more automated solution was needed and he decided to look at email archiving. From an operations perspective, email archiving provides the ability to ease the strain on physical storage by moving emails off the email server, while providing fast and easy access to the messages. It would also enable quick and secure delivery of past emails while providing a message and audit history. An important factor should further scrutiny be needed.

Wellington College had been successfully using the Barracuda Spam & Virus Firewall for a number of years, and as Barracuda Networks had a suitable email archiving product Whelton decided to review it as a possible answer to his problem.

Having contacted its local and preferred IT partner, Synetix Solutions Ltd, for advice Whelton opted to trial the Barracuda Message Archiver 850 and took advantage of the free, thirty day trial offered. “I have had a good experience of Barracuda Networks’ products over the past three and half years as I couldn’t fault its Spam & Virus Firewall. Synextix Solutions Ltd were really helpful and I had a high degree of confidence that the Message Archiver would do the job.”

Following delivery, the Message Archiver took less than one afternoon to deploy and was up and running straight away. Barracuda Networks had pre-configured the appliance which coupled with its very simple, centralised administration made it very simple to use and manage.

Automation the way forward

The Barracuda Networks Message Archiver works by ‘stubbing’ email attachments to reduce email storage (on average) by 85%. It also automatically de-duplicates and compresses emails before archiving takes place. Once configured the appliance simply takes over keeping admin tasks to a minimum. “We have hardly had to touch it since it was installed,” said Whelton.

To date Whelton has been delighted with the results. “Since the introduction of the Barracuda Message Archiver, it has reduced our storage requirements from the original six terabytes of data, to a much more manageable 850 gigabytes. This has reduced our storage needs by over 80% leaving it free to be used for other purposes which delivers an indirect saving to the general IT budget.”

He continued, “We have also derived other financial benefits by choosing Barracuda Networks. Like all Barracuda Networks’ appliances, Message Archiver has no per user fees, which was an issue with a lot of competitor products as it leads to escalating costs. This represents a significant saving as we no longer have to constantly buy more licenses if user numbers change – which is common occurrence in education environments.”

Looking to the future

Contemplating the future of IT at Wellington College, Whelton described the impact of introducing the Barracuda Message Archiver. “Since deployment, the Message Archiver has allowed us to manage email data, across the school’s network in a more efficient manner whilst minimising disruption to the students and staffs’ work. The automatic software updates that occur with the Barracuda Message Archiver create a peace of mind for the IT Department, and its licensing terms allows us to bring what could be spiraling IT costs under control. The reduction in storage capacity has been hugely welcome and its management facility, which is common with all Barracuda appliances makes it easy to use and deploy. It has really simplified our IT.”