Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Domino and Email Reliability

I've just finished filling out a survey questionnaire for Michael Osterman and I noticed that the same sorts of things just keep on cropping up. I can't figure out why these things are "issues" in this day and age. Certainly, they're not problems for us.

I was just wondering if people have email problems because of poor implementations, poor policy, low expenditure or because they're on other systems with less resilience than domino.

The Problems Discussed
The problems mentioned in the survey were as follows;
  • Spam
  • Outbound Confidential Material
  • Archiving and Retrieval
  • System Management Time
  • Mail File Sizes
None of these are issues for us.


Spam
After struggling for a few years with the Symantec Anti-Spam solutions, I finally redirected our mail through a cleansing service. This service runs our mail through several different Anti-Spam solutions. Anything considered spam is sent to spam@myorganisation.com while all other mail goes to it's rightful recipient. All users at our company have rights to read the mailbox of spam@myorganisation.com and they know that if there's something that they didn't get, they can search for it there.

Of course, the filters are so accurate that this never happens. (touch wood).


Outbound Confidential Material
We have an extranet system which is powered by Domino and which contains about 200 document databases. Most of our documents are intended for one group or another. When we send documents to these groups, we broadcast from the database. The recipients get a link which they can follow and login to get their documents. If they forward the link to somone else, the document is safe.

If one of our administration people sends the document to the wrong group (difficult because the broadcast functions on our database fill in the group automatically), then the ACL of the database will prevent the wrong person from accessing the document. The problem then becomes one of embarrassment, not security.

Finally, if we have to send anything highly-secure one-to-one, then the attachment is PGP encrypted before we send it. We have policies in place to enforce this and everybody at our company - right up to CEO level - is expected to comply.


Archiving and Retrieval
We've got a Lotus Notes document management solution called AbilitySuite in place. It's been working well for years. It forces people to categorise emails according to companies, projects and other criteria. Some of our people are "lazy" and don't categorise everything but since we also use mail rules to simplify categorisation of emails we usually pick up the important ones.

In any case, if a mail doesn't get categorised, it doesn't matter too much - after all, since every email is journaled we can still retrieve all emails to (or from) a given person between two dates if we get a subpoena. The other great thing about the AbilitySuite system is that it chunks our mails into monthly archives. If we need to get space back, then we just move the archives onto another server, back it up to optical media (several times), store copies on and off-site and then, stop backing it up from then on.

Problem solved.


System Management Time
I have to say that even though our Domino systems run a huge number of applications as well as email and other things, it doesn't consume much system management time. I have no idea what the point of this topic is.

Perhaps it's that - in the days before our archiving solution and before our spam management was done by an external party, there was a lot of work to do. Well, erm... that's the past... It's not the case anymore - and anyone on a mail system which does require a lot of maintenance needs to look at their infrastructure to put in a better solution. Enough said.

Mail File Sizes
The afforementioned archiving capabilities of AbilitySuite have put this one to rest. Sure, I have a few users over quota but do I care? No. If I wanted, I could delete all of their mail and they'd still not lose anything - because it's all stored in the mail archives.

I've only let people get over-quota because of the generosity of my heart and the fact that our other systems aren't affected by it. If it started to push our backup windows out, I'd get those users down to quota.


In Summary
I guess my point is simple - why, in this day and age, are we still talking about such things? If your email system doesn't make these points a no-brainer, then perhaps it's time to move to one which does.

4 comments:

Khelben said...

I myself have had a really hard time concerning spam on one of my e-mail adresses. It has not been fun...

Can you tell me a little about that e-mail cleansing service?

Gavin Bollard said...

In our case,we used IC Consulting but this is an Australian service and there are lots of other ones available.

You don't even need to get a domino solution - straight SMTP will do the job.

What happens is that instead of email going direct to our SMTP gateway, it goes to the service's gateway - which filters it and changes the headers on "spam" to point to "mailto:spam@mycompany.com"

We could have had them deleted but it's better for legal reasons to get the email and keep it in an spam mailbox.

You can read about the Symantec Hosted Mail Security Service, Kaspersky Service or MailWise.


The MailWise site has a great explanatory diagram which you should check out.

Khelben said...

I will check out the MailWise and read some more about it.

I'm wondering if you ever have heard about Sunbelt's IHateSpam product and what do you think about it? I tried it myself but never got it to work.

( http://www.sunbeltsoftware.com/Home-Home-Office/iHateSpam/ )

Gavin Bollard said...

I had a look at the I hate spam product but it still expects your computer to do the work.

It's acceptable as a personal solution but not as a corporate one.