Interview with Shane Brown, President of DigeTekS LLC
DigeTekS LLC is an Information Technology consulting services firm based in Firestone, Colorado. Founded in 2005, the company has a highly skilled and experienced engineering staff whose mission is to meet their clients’ IT requirements by bringing them the most effective and appropriate technical solutions. DigeTekS has strong partnerships with select software vendors. These relationships enable the company to provide rapid, expanded support and accelerated escalation services for their client base.
A few weeks ago, I spoke with Shane Brown, President of DigeTekS, about their company and the immediate technology issues they are helping their clients address. We also touched upon some of the reasons that underlie the successful and long-term partnership between DigiTekS and Messaging Architects.
RD: Who are DigeTekS’ clients? Do you specialize in supporting organizations from a specific vertical or geography?
SB: DigeTekS’ clients range from very small organizations to Fortune 500 companies. We have clients across the United States and naturally we are especially prominent in the Rocky Mountains region and California. We also work with several VARs for whom we handle specific IT implementations.
RD: From conversations we’ve had over the years I know DigiTekS maintains a very special connection with its clients. Once you have established a relationship with a company, you not only provide technical advice and implementation assistance, you have a much deeper involvement with them, isn’t that right?
SB: Yes, we have long-standing relationships with our clients. In addition to providing them with the necessary technical assistance, we also serve as trusted advisors. We offer them a high level of advice on environments they need assistance on and in some cases we completely manage these systems on the clients’ behalf.
RD: In other words, you really provide turnkey solutions to your clients. The clients task you with the IT project and then leave it up to you to plan its implementation, recommend the solution that would bring the project to a successful completion, and fully document everything.
SB: That’s exactly the case. The majority of our clients have been with us for a long time, they trust us and follow our recommendations on design, implementation and technology selection. In some cases, we complement their in-house IT resources with skills and experience they may not have in-house. For example, we have used our comprehensive expertise in Novell technologies to help our clients move from Netware to Open Enterprise Server (OES) and in the process upgrade to GroupWise and deploy IDM and Zenworks. What I mean is that we are able to combine several projects together and update our clients’ IT environment faster and cost effectively.
RD: DigeTekS and Messaging Architects have been partners for over five years. What do you think makes the partnership work well?
SB: I think that Messaging Architects has been developing innovative technology to address email risk management that in turn allows us to offer our clients the right solutions that best meet their business needs. Over the years, we have been very successful deploying M+Guardian. Our clients really see the power of the technology and currently we have a lot of Guardian licenses. At the same time, we are also starting to see increased interest in M+Archive as more and more companies are realizing that implementing email archiving is no longer optional.
RD: You have always been a strong proponent of M+Guardian. Where do you see its advantages over other email security products?
SB: M+Guardian just works really well. When we ask clients to compare it to other products that are available, they find it easy to use, really good as far as false positives are concerned and the different layers of scanning that are employed, and end users like it too. The IT staff like it because it’s simple and provides the level of email security they need. In terms of managing the spam quarantine and releasing trapped messages, it is much easier with M+Guardian than it is with some of the other products. On our end, we do internal tests comparing M+Guardian to other solutions and it consistently shows superior results. I am not talking only about low-cost products, such as Barracuda, over which M+Guardian is massively superior. As far as we are concerned, M+Guardian scores better than most of the other higher-end email security products on the market, such as Ironport or Ironmail, both in terms of spam catch rates and false positive rates. All these factors make M+Guardian is a pretty fast and easy sell for us.
RD: You mentioned that M+Archive is starting to rise in popularity. In so far as your clients are concerned, when they look at email archiving, is it to contain storage growth or because of eDiscovery and compliance considerations?
SB: Increasingly, clients are seeing eDiscovery and compliance requirements they have to meet and what really gets them moving forward is the fact that with M+Archive they are able to meet these mandates and at the same time achieve a level of storage optimization on their email server. Very often the organizations are running out of storage and when a solution can both free up some space and also let them find information faster and be compliant, they are ready to move ahead because they see the potential savings in terms of costs, storage, time, and overhead.
RD: So even though storage is coming down pricewise, it’s still a concern among your clients…
SB: It’s definitely a concern. Here’s a simple example illustrating the issue: Let’s say you have a GroupWise or an Exchange environment you have set up and to which you have allocated a certain amount of disk space. If you want to add more disk space to it at a later point, you look at adding along the lines of the same capacity you started with. For the email production server this is usually high-performance storage that is quite expensive. When clients realize that through an email archiving solution, they are able to offload email, free up space and continue to access the messages without any latency, they start doing the math and the savings can be considerable.
Here’s a real-life case: a school district we work with spent $150,000 on the disks for their email system. Now they’ve implemented M+Archive, they can by pulling some of the emails out and storing them on disks which cost them $40,000 for the same capacity; that’s less than a third of what they paid for tier 1 storage. So now they have accomplished several things: they’ve cut down on the costs of their disks considerably, at the same time the performance of their email system has improved dramatically, and the entire collaboration environment has become easier to manage.
RD: What can you say about the architecture of M+Archive when you compare it to other archiving products on the market?
SB: M+Archive is very well designed. As for the M+Archive interface, I can say that it has several benefits and we’ve noticed that clients really like it. It is straightforward and quite intuitive. Clients are able to do their searches and retrieve the information they need easily without having to spend a long time understanding what they are doing. In fact, we find that showing a product demo to potential clients really speeds up the sales cycle, as they are able to immediately grasp how M+Archive will help them solve their problems.
RD: From your point of view, is the fact that M+Archive offers eDiscovery capabilities in addition to the archiving functionality at no additional cost a benefit that clients appreciate?
SB: I focus primarily on design and implementation of the archiving solution and am less involved in the pricing stage of the selection process. However, I do know that from a cost perspective M+Archive ended up saving at least 40% for a client after all the components regarding the functionality they needed were factored in. So I would say that from a cost perspective M+Archive has some clear-cut advantages. And cost is a huge factor in the decision-making process for clients.
RD: What other IT projects has your team been most involved with lately?
SB: As I mentioned before, among the trends we’ve seen regarding IT projects our clients are involved in with have to do with file server. We are helping clients move from Netware to OES. As part of that project, we are also migrating companies to GroupWise 8. Clients need the enhancements in the GroupWise and WebAccess clients we are able help them update their messaging systems while doing the same for their file servers. This is another reason for the rising popularity of M+Archive. As a best practice, we recommend that they introduce centralized archiving prior to the upgrade. The result of this approach is a much better performing email system after the migration to GroupWise 8.
RD: In your experience, do you see many organizations moving away from GroupWise to other email platforms?
SB: The release of GroupWise 8 has slowed down this trend. The capabilities of version 8 are comparable to what clients are looking for and this is stopping them from moving to a different email platform. In some cases, unfortunately, the decision to move to Exchange has already been made and in those cases, DigeTekS is involved with designing, planning and implementing the bigger move. Clients really appreciate our expertise in multiple messaging systems as often they lack the know-how internally to successfully execute such a big and complex project.
RD: You are confirming what our clients also feel: the thought of migration evokes nightmares for a lot of IT departments. How does your methodology to email migrations prevent it from being a really painful experience for the clients?
SB: Over the years, we’ve accumulated considerable experience and best practices what to do and what to avoid in order to have a successful migration without the pain. It’s not impossible; it just requires careful planning and understanding of what the client needs and how best to attain it. We have a standard procedure we use for all implementations we do – step 1 is back up all the data to ensure that nothing is lost. The same rule applies to the messaging system. In this case, before we proceed to the email system switch, we recommend that all email data be archived in a platform-independent format. This ensures the data is always available to the business regardless of the outcome. Access to the archive is much more immediate than having to resort to backup. M+Archive provides the tools we need to implement this step. The fact that it works across email platforms also means that clients can continue using it on the new email platform at no additional costs. Moreover, M+Archive comes with a built-in migration utility that allows us to guide our clients through migrations much more painlessly than it has traditionally been.
RD: DigeTekS recommends M+Archive over Quest Migrator to its clients. What were the advantages you saw in Messaging Architects’?
SB: We have been been familiar with the Quest tool for a while. The basic premise they adopt is to take all the email from GroupWise and transfer it all into Exchange, regardless of whether it’s needed or not. As a result, there are serious risks of losing messages during the course of action, files get corrupted, storage requirements double or triple, and the overall process can be quite painful for the client. Besides, once you’re done with the migration, the tool is useless and cannot be used for anything else. It seems like a bit of a waste of hard to come IT dollars.
We are currently using M+Archive to migrate clients because we think it offers a better methodology that can result in considerable savings for them. What it boils down to for the clients is that by archiving and then migrating to a new platform, they have invested in a long-term solution that allows them to select the data to be migrated to the new system, while at the same time having access to the legacy archives in a standards-based platform-independent format. Moreover, they are able to use the same product to continue archiving email on the new platform as opposed to the Quest tool that they have to discard after the project is completed.
In so far as the actual migration process is concerned, a migration can be done faster using the with M+Archive migration utility because of all the preparation steps that we can do ahead of time with zero impact on the end users. With the Quest tool you’re completely limited to the number of hours in a day because it physically takes each email, pull it out of the old system, change it and inject it in the new system at the time of migration. Sure, you can set up multiple workstations to migrate more people simultaneously, but this approach introduces a lot of complexity upfront and increases the risks.
Here are some real-world numbers:
- A 10GB GroupWise mailbox will take 7-8 hours to migrate to Exchange. If we want to run 10 workstations simultaneously, we need to prepare each one of them for the process. So even if the migration itself requires 8 hours, the work upfront would add up to double that time – more like 14-16 hours altogether.
- The largest client mailbox we had to migrate using the Quest tool was 22GB. We had to run the migration 3 times as there was corrupt data. When the tool encountered an error, we had to go back, clean it up, and rerun the process again. Each time it took about 24 hours.
These examples confirm the limitations of the Quest tool. Beyond that, the more important question remains: why is it necessary to migrate 10 or 22 GB of email data when over 80% of will never be accessed again.
RD: How much data do you recommend as a best practice to be injected in the live Exchange system and how much do you leave to be accessed through the archive?
SB: This depends on the client. Some clients need more data to be injected than others. For the most part, we find a really nice number to be 90 days. In other words, inject 3 months’ worth of email into the new email system. The re-injecting of data is pretty clean and covers what the majority of companies search for. Very rarely do people need to access messages past 90 days, unless it’s some kind of discovery or internal audit requirement.
In the case of the school district migration we’re currently working on, they’ve requested that 12 months’ worth of data be injected in the new system; basically, they want to keep the information for the entire school year. This is a specific requirement that has to do with how teachers handle homeworks and other assignments, as well as grade assessments.
RD: So to sum up, when you advise clients on migrations, you’re approaching it as an email management consolidation project with a broader scope for the same investment.
SB: We are recommending M+Archive not only as a migration tool investment, but as a piece of software that will enable our clients to migrate and have an archiving solution in place. This is the strategy we are offering to our clients because we believe it bests meets their immediate needs while addressing them from a cost-effective perspective.
– Roumiana Deltcheva