Mimosa Systems NearPoint
Strengths: Smooth deployment, very easy to use, log shipping has virtually no performance overheads, grid technology scales well with demand, CDP and data recovery, eDiscovery search facility
Weaknesses: Only basic summary reporting in management console
Verdict: NearPoint provides a slick email archiving solution for Exchange servers
Storage management has traditionally been the main driving force behind email archiving but this is being overtaken by the demands for regulatory compliance. These, along with litigation readiness requirements are rapidly changing the way emails are retained in long-term storage.
One problem associated with email archiving is the extra burden on the mail servers some products can introduce.
Mimosa Systems NearPoint for Exchange Server aims to avoid these overheads with a number of techniques and its modus operandi allows it to include data protection and recovery. Traditionally, most first generation email archiving products use MAPI or agent-based connections to scan mailboxes. These methods can place high processing overheads on Exchange servers.
NearPoint copies the Exchange database to its own dedicated archival storage and thereafter only copies the transaction logs. As Exchange closes a transaction log it posts a notification in the Windows Event log - NearPoint sees this and immediately takes a copy of the new transaction log into its archive and indexes it. There's no impact on the Exchange server and NearPoint also satisfies compliancy issues as it also captures users' notes, tasks, calendars, contacts and so on.
NearPoint stores the complete lifecycle of emails as it includes records of activities such as message deletions and those moved to other mailboxes. Log shipping also allows NearPoint to shadow the Exchange database in its entirety thus delivering near CDP (continuous data protection) and local Exchange recovery.
NearPoint's application server manages all archiving and shadowing operations and runs on a Windows Server 2003 system which should preferably be dedicated to the task. It also requires a separately licensed copy of SQL Server 2005. Usefully, archival storage can be anything the NearPoint host server can access, so you can go for local storage, IP or FC SANs or network shares.
NearPoint doesn't require any agents installed on client systems making the deployment process even smoother. If users have permission to restore their own emails from the archive they can view these directly from within their mail client.
The NearPoint management console is an MMC snap-in and offers a very tidy interface which automatically discovers and lists all Exchange servers on the network. All you do is add them to the managed Exchange server group and enable shadowing. Dynamic log shipping is then enabled for each Exchange server. On first contact NearPoint copies the entire database into its archive.
Policies determine archiving activities and allow you to decide what should be archived, data retention periods and user access permissions. The policies actually run against the Exchange shadow copy and not the live database so reducing overheads even further. NearPoint employs grid technology where multiple nodes can be used for load balancing and redundancy and more nodes can be added as required. The mailbox extension policies determine how attachments are to be handled. We created user permissions to access the archive and within our Outlook client a standard folder appeared allowing us to access it directly. With the appropriate permissions granted we could restore messages from the archive, view other user's mailboxes and conduct searches. As NearPoint retains a complete history you can conduct searches at specific points in time going back as far as you like. Auditors can be granted special access by creating roles where you add user accounts to them and decide which mailboxes they are allowed to audit.
NearPoint can also handle local Outlook PST files and has a crawler facility that searches the network for them. Users can be permitted to archive local PST files if they wish or NearPoint can automate the whole process. NearPoint constantly monitors the Exchange server and if it spots any problems it can initiate its call home feature to notify support staff. It can also be set to automatically recover Exchange in the event of a critical failure.
For possible legal proceeding and litigation Mimosa's optional eDiscovery tool provides a rapid search facility for all email and attachments. This is very easy to use and searches are easy to create. Results can be tagged for further reference and importantly, can have a litigation hold put on them which prevents them being tampered with.
NearPoint delivers a sophisticated yet very simple solution for regulatory compliant email archiving. We found it remarkably easy to deploy and use. It offers valuable CDP and database recovery features and has a negligible impact on Exchange server performance.