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With intellectual capital flowing through messaging systems and an increasingly mobile workforce, enterprises face significant challenges surrounding data access, operational efficiency, security, and data protection. Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 can address these concerns.

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By  Jeanne Feldkamp, Deb McDonald and Tom Kolnowski Published  August 15, 2007

If corporations are complex, living bodies, e-mail is the blood pulsing through their veins. It circulates vital information where needed and helps keep operations running smoothly. Without e-mail, business can grind to a halt.

E-mail is now the primary means of communication within the enterprise - and it has become much more than a simple messaging tool. Employee e-mail messages contain an enormous volume of critical data that must be managed, protected, and accessed. As the volume of messaging-related data grows exponentially, enterprises are facing significant data storage and security challenges. Spam, viruses, and malware present major threats to 24/7 availability. Compliance has also been added to the mix - enterprises now must be able to pull information out of archives easily and securely to help satisfy governmental regulations. For these reasons, organisations must protect themselves effectively against threats, manage the increasing volume and cost of e-mail storage, meet compliance and risk-management requirements, and build a resilient e-mail infrastructure. Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 helps enterprises accomplish these imperatives with anywhere access, built-in protection, and outstanding operational efficiency.

Ask enterprise users today how important e-mail is, and they are likely to say that being without e-mail would present a greater hardship than losing telephone service. But the reality is that enterprise users need both the telephone and e-mail to do their jobs - and increasingly, they need other forms of messaging as well. Employees need rapid, easy access not only to e-mail, but also to voice mail, instant messaging, and fax communications. In addition, they need to access these messages using a variety of tools, including mobile devices, computers connected through wireless networks, and cell phones as well as conventional telephones.

As the definition of messaging within the enterprise has expanded, so too have the demands on IT infrastructures. An increasingly mobile workforce creates challenges in terms of access control, security, and bandwidth. Operational efficiency can suffer as current architectures fail to keep pace with the increasing volume of users and data. The threat of viruses, worms, and spyware looms large. And because significant portions of enterprise intellectual capital reside within e-mail, those messages must be backed up and protected against tampering in the same manner as other critical files.

Traditional messaging architectures lack the level of control needed to handle exponential growth in e-mail volume and proliferation of message sources. It is not uncommon for users to require 10 MB of storage per day. This explosion in usage and volume is testing the performance limits of many enterprise IT environments.

Limitations of 32-bit processors put a lid on the number of users that e-mail systems can handle as well as the size of individual mailboxes. IT administrators typically try to add 32-bit servers to increase capacity, but this tactic also adds complexity to the IT infrastructure. Eventually, the system approaches a tipping point where administrators simply cannot squeeze additional performance out of the existing architecture. The organisation cannot take advantage of the increased memory, processing power, and I/O speeds enabled by 64-bit systems without replacing its entire messaging infrastructure. Besides creating storage challenges, messaging growth has produced serious IT management issues. Historically, e-mail management has been performed manually. Increased volumes lead to rising costs and additional administrators - and many IT teams lack the tools and best practices needed to make messaging management easy and cost-effective.

Security is also a major issue in traditional messaging systems. Data is under constant threat of attack from both outside and inside an organisation, which means that protection has become a 24/7 necessity. In recent years, there has been a huge increase in spam, viruses, and malware that can harm or even eliminate critical data. According to a recent computer crime and security publication, 65% of surveyed organisations reported virus attacks, and 52% of those respondents also reported unauthorised use of computer systems.

Spam, which is a frequent carrier of viruses and malware, accounts for a substantial amount of e-mail volume and is still trending upward. In addition, many viruses typically enter an organisation through the e-mail gateway - so as the number of applications and devices accessing the e-mail infrastructure increases, security considerations become more pressing than ever.

Despite the potential costs, data protection is another reason enterprises are rethinking traditional messaging infrastructures. Invaluable intellectual property is commonly contained within e-mail messages, and organisations involved in an electronic data discovery request are expected to produce messages as part of legal or regulatory proceedings.

Data recovery from crashes and disasters is often difficult and must be performed manually to help ensure that everything from e-mail messages to attachments to shared files is restored. Unfortunately, no easy fix exists to address the problems associated with heterogeneous messaging infrastructures. Many IT managers believe they can cobble together solutions that will help them keep up with performance demands while using the same IT infrastructure. For example, some enterprises try to decouple servers from storage or try to focus on reducing costs on the storage side. However, this approach does not solve the root problem - it only adds additional storage to a flawed infrastructure.

Enterprises need more than a quick fix to support heterogeneous messaging systems. They need a comprehensive, integrated, end-to-end messaging solution. In an integrated solution, all the elements (including servers, storage, tools, services, and support) have been tested and validated to work together.

Messaging infrastructures must not only integrate messages from multiple inputs, but also provide a platform that helps reduce costs and complexity, increase performance, improve scalability, and simplify compliance. By implementing a cohesive messaging system, enterprises help ensure that all of the components work and will be supported. Standards-based components enable the messaging infrastructure to interoperate with existing systems, helping ensure that the messaging environment can be expanded as needed.

The result: a solution that addresses the e-mail issues, yet is ready for an end-to-end communications infrastructure that also includes voice mail, instant messaging, fax, Microsoft Office applications, and the Microsoft Windows Vista OS.

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