REVIEWER: Jerry Hook, IT manager, University Health System.
BACKGROUND: University Health System (UHS), a regional health care network in Knoxville, Tennessee, encompasses the University of Tennessee Medical Center, the region's largest medical center, and provides health care support to East Tennessee residents. Its operations include more than 4,000 physicians, nurses, caseworkers and administrative staff who rely on email to coordinate with colleagues and quickly convey confidential patient information.
PLATFORMS: More than 160 Exchange and NT servers.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Exchange and Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) provide basic health and availability statistics, yet do not provide the tools necessary to understand who is using Exchange, how they are using it and what performance Exchange is delivering. In mid-2006, UHS' IT staff began an upgrade of its Exchange email servers from Exchange 5.5 to 2003. We knew we would be migrating again to Exchange Server 2007 before long. First, we wanted to lay the groundwork for a well-planned, well-executed migration that created little or no service impact and made few demands on limited IT time. Second, we wanted to implement a process to provide visibility into email use and operation post-migration. Third, we wanted to ensure ongoing smooth operations because user adoption of mobile email devices was increasing traffic volumes.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Email CONTROL! for Exchange (ECX) from Permessa Corp. (formerly DYS Analytics) provides a digital dashboard of summary statistics for a quick overview of enterprise-wide messaging traffic. It offers both drill-down capabilities and more than 100 canned reports on vital Exchange performance indicators. The software also sends probe emails, then graphically depicts their route of travel as a way to quickly visualize any system bottlenecks. The product allows the user to display data in portals that assemble information by audience. An interactive report designer and wizard allow for quick and easy custom report creation.
STRENGTHS: Strengths include the ability to quickly write personal reports based on the needs of the company, which is better than using canned reports. Reports we created in ECX gave us the understanding to revamp our Exchange network architecture and guide the placement of users on servers for optimal performance. After the migration, its reports continued to help us refine user message store placement to minimize Exchange and network loads. The software's reports also let us more quickly troubleshoot email issues when users call asking about lost email. ECX has a small footprint and does not require the use of agents that may present an issue to maintain or configure.
WEAKNESSES: There were a few issues where the fields I wanted to generate a report, i.e., where the attributes were limited in number, were not available. It would be nicer to have access to the report feature from all global catalog attributes. While ECX extracts hard-to-find messaging traffic data from Exchange messaging logs, it doesn't monitor server-level performance metrics. So we use another Exchange resource monitoring tool from Argent for server monitoring, alerts, some messaging tracking and even auto-restarting our servers if desired. We custom integrate their data into what we view on ECX's dashboards for a comprehensive understanding of our Exchange environment.
SELECTION CRITERIA: We chose ECX based on the flexibility for us to drill down and create our own views into system performance, along with a selection of canned reports about messaging use.
DELIVERABLES: Using ECX for pre-migration cleanup, we removed 25 percent of the mailboxes and more than 80 percent of the storage that would otherwise have had to be migrated. This allowed the entire migration to take place at least a month sooner than planned. The now smaller Exchange 2003 storage requirements let us keep the new Exchange servers at peak performance with lower ongoing email administration costs and improved potential disaster recovery time. The product paid for itself in just over four months based only on the immediately realized IT cost savings. Our email traffic volumes went up by 20 percent in the first few months.
VENDOR SUPPORT: ECX is very intuitive, so we have needed minimal, if any, guidance in using the software. When we did have questions, the response from the vendor was timely and accurate.
DOCUMENTATION: Provided as soft copy.
Email CONTROL! for Exchange (ECX)
69 Hickory Drive
Waltham, MA 02451
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