Like many organizations that are feeling the pressure of regulatory compliance and e-discovery demands, Virtua Health knew the time had come to implement an e-mail archiving solution. Today, the non-profit healthcare system takes comfort in knowing that it can retrieve e-mails in a timely and cost-effective manner with the help of Mimosa Systems' NearPoint e-mail archiving solution.
A large multi-hospital healthcare system headquartered in Marlton, N.J., Virtua Health's e-mail policy left a lot to be desired when it came to responding quickly to e-mail research requests. "In many cases we were simply unable to respond because e-mails were purged," said Andrew Gahm, network architect at Virtua.
Not anymore. With NearPoint, the organization has moved away from its limited e-mail policy and currently archives messages that can then be indexed, searched and retrieved.
Formed in 1998, Virtua Health is the largest healthcare provider in southern New Jersey. The system includes four hospitals, two rehab/long-term care centers, two same-day surgery centers, home care service, outpatient centers and a number of program and specialty services.
An Exchange 2003 user, the organization has 8,900 e-mail accounts for its employees, doctors and physician staff.
Time for a Change
Without an e-mail archive system in place and with a very limited e-mail retention policy delete after 45 days Virtua Health fell victim to an all too common e-mail problem. "Users would save e-mails in .pst files on their hard drives once the Exchange server filled up," said Gahm, noting that many users took it upon themselves to save everything.
With laws and regulations such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (Sarbanes-Oxley), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) governing record retention, protection and discovery, organizations are feeling pressure to establish e-mail archiving solutions and retention policies.
"There were times in the past when we needed to do research as per a request from legal or human resources, but we didn't have an e-mail archive to recover it from," said Gahm.
That was a problem the healthcare provider needed to fix.
Virtua Health first considered its criteria for an e-mail archive solution. According to Gahm, the solution needed to capture all Exchange data, including messages, calendars, contacts and tasks, as well as a history for every item. At the same time, the solution was to have minimal impact on Exchange.
"We also wanted a solution that provided single instancing and one that made it easy to do searches," he said.
After doing some leg work, the organization came up with a list of four vendors: EMC, Mimosa, Symantec and ZL Technologies, formerly ZipLip. Three of the vendors did product demos and Symantec was evaluated without a demo.
"We decided that Mimosa's NearPoint was the way to go," said Gahm, adding that it was the only product that didn't use a journaling function, which he said results in a performance hit on Exchange.
According to Mimosa, the company's NearPoint for Microsoft Exchange doesn't rely on journaling or MAPI, yet maintains a complete up-to-date copy of all Exchange data. NearPoint's One Pass Protection instead captures e-mail data from production servers at the transaction log level.
The product was installed by the customer, but not before Mimosa reviewed the company's HP StorageWorks 1000 Modular Smart Array (MSA) SAN layout. Product installation was done in an afternoon.
There are currently more than 100 million messages archived on Virtua Health's NearPoint solution, and archiving has freed up about 300GB of storage. "Those are .pst files that were previously put in a common file store," said Gahm.
NearPoint has also opened up access to the Exchange client.
Since installing the product, Virtua Health has done several major e-mail searches as part of the e-discovery process, said Gahm. Despite the large number of archived messages, the ability to search key phrases produces search results in less than an hour.
According to the vendor, its e-mail archiving software captures e-mail data, allows users infinite mailbox capacity, enables users to apply rules for retention and disposition, and facilitates collaborative search and discovery of e-mail data. The e-Discovery Option for NearPoint for Microsoft Exchange Server is an easy to use application for searching and producing e-mail and attachments contained in the NearPoint archive.
"There's also a disaster recovery option that we like. It allows users to access the archives and pull up deleted e-mails," Gahm said. Virtual Health is currently testing the disaster recovery option. If the organization decides to use the DR option, it will require user training.
"It's a new way for users to think about the day-to-day use of e-mail, but it will allow us to get away from .pst files and instead import personal folders to archive," said Gahm.
Virtua Health initially installed V1.0 of the Mimosa software. Today, the company is on V2.0 which provided a couple of major enhancements such as speed and compression. V3.0 will be announced next week.
The healthcare organization has also increased its storage capacity from 2 terabytes to 4 terabytes.