Enterprises that consider e-mail, or even certain individuals' e-mail, to be essential to running their business, now have the option of using a disaster recovery service that specializes in fortifying Microsoft's Exchange accounts.
Evergreen Assurance Inc., Annapolis, Md., recently introduced a disaster recovery service, Evergreen for Exchange, that does real-time WAN-based data replication, monitors Exchange servers for service degradation, offers failover in real time, and gives customers the option of having a dedicated secondary environment.
The company said the system collects best practices across the entire IT stack, including the application, operating systems, hardware and the physical layers of the network, and it codifies that information. When there is a failover and recovery, the system is able to intelligently figure out the best way to recover and address unknown events to mitigate the downtime.
The process of failing over from the onsite Exchange server to the backup server happens in 15 minutes with the click of a button, said Paul LaPorte, vice president of business development at Evergreen Assurance. But IT professionals can use the service not just for disaster recovery. They can also use it for when they are doing routine maintenance on their servers or when they are troubleshooting a problem involving hardware or software corruption. The service can also be used to back up e-mail for certain members of an organization, such as the executives, or the IT team, provided they are on a unique Exchange server.
In any case, the failover is transparent to the end user, LaPorte said.
Designed for e-mail-reliant companies
The typical company that would want a disaster recovery service for e-mail is one that considers e-mail to be its life's blood. It's not for everyone, but certain organizations have internal charters that say they must be prepared for a large disaster, and they will pay what they need to, said Matt Cain, an industry analyst and senior vice president at Meta Group, a Stamford, Conn., consulting firm.
For some customers, the cost of this service may be an issue. LaPorte said that a typical enterprise might pay about $3,500 per month. Providing service for a 5,000-person organization can cost between $25,000 and $30,000 to back up, or about $6 per user.
"It all depends on your business-continuance model," said Tim Koeppe, messaging administrator at Casey Family Programs, a Seattle-based family services organization. "I believe e-mail is the most critical business application, but we have cheaper ways to do our disaster recovery."
Koeppe said he would consider such a service if it could be used for only certain mailboxes.
A business -- not IT -- decision
Cain said he thinks $6 per user for a fully redundant system is reasonable for some companies whose e-mail must be up all the time. A typical Exchange implementation might cost about $12 per user, so it's a 50% premium. "At this point, it becomes a business decision, and not an IT decision," he said.
But other companies who live or die by e-mail think it's a necessity. At professional services firm E.magination, each of the 75 employees have their e-mail backed up by Evergreen Assurance. Exchange is tied to the company's accounting system, said Dan Roche, chief executive at E.magination, which is based Baltimore.
"I live out of my inbox," Roche said. "E-mail is our critical industrial application, and I have to be comfortable not losing that data."
Cain said he believes disaster recovery for e-mail will be a major trend for the next couple of years. "The IT group really feels the pain when e-mail is down," he said. "The whole corporation is handcuffed."
There are other companies selling similar backup services for e-mail. Two examples are MessageOne Inc., Austin, Texas, and The Electric Mail Co., a Burnaby, British Columbia, company that sells a webmail backup service.
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