Seattle Northwest Securities Corp., a regional investment bank with approximately $10 billion of assets under management, has installed Permabit Inc.'s compliance device after evaluating products from all the major storage vendors.
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As a broker-dealer, Seattle Northwest must adhere to SEC rule 17 a-4, which governs the retention of all electronic data, including e-mail and instant messages. The ruling states that this data must be stored in its original format, on non-erasable, non-rewritable media; must be indexed for easy retrieval, with a duplicate copy made of the record and the index; and every step of the process must be audited.
Seattle Northwest's current archiving system, a Hewlett Packard Co., StorageWorks optical jukebox, had only basic indexing and wasn't scalable enough. HP's answer? Buy another jukebox.
"The problem with that, when you've got thousands of e-mails coming in every day, is that someone has to keep replacing the disks every time we do an archive … We don't pay our IT people to do that all day," said Chu Abad, vice president of information technology at Seattle Northwest. The firm has about 25 GB to 75 GB of Exchange and Bloomberg e-mail traveling through its mail servers each month.
In addition to space issues, retrieval of data from the HP system wasn't up to par. "Trying to find all the data on one person, which could be spread across 20 different disks, would take too long as each disk would have to be found and then searched separately." According to Abad, HP didn't mention its new RISS archiving system to Seattle Northwest.
Next, the company checked out EMC Corp.'s Centera product, but price and performance issues turned Abad off this offering. "EMC said it would cost $125,000 before they even asked me my requirements," Abad said. Centera ships with a minimum capacity of 4 TB and Seattle Northwest wanted to start out with 1 TB. "We are only 100 people, but EMC kept saying eventually you will need 4 TB… Don't give me what I need, give me what I want," Abad requested. His plea apparently went unheard .
Aside from the pricing, Abad was concerned about the performance of Centera. "It was too slow retrieving, it took several seconds for one e-mail. That's ok, but when you are trying to retrieve thousands, that's no good," he said.
Network Appliance out
Seattle Northwest also evaluated Network Appliance's Snaplock compliance software running on its FAS 270 filer, but was uncomfortable with the redundancy and failover capabilities of this system. "NetApp's parity RAID is a good idea until you get two simultaneous disk failures, then the whole system fails," according to Abad.
NetApp's answer? Buy another box and mirror the first, but Seattle Northwest had no intention of doubling its costs. Abad said there were also some scalability issues with the NetApp product. For example, there isn't a way to link volumes together that are in separate enclosures, he said.
Permabit, iLumin in
All in all, Abad said he was pretty disappointed with the major offerings on the market. Finally, he discovered Permabit's compliance device and archiving software from iLumin Software Services Inc. that when combined would do the job.
iLumin's software captures all Seattle Northwest's inbound and outbound e-mail and sends it to the Permabit appliance where it is indexed and stored. Permabit software verifies the accuracy and integrity of archived e-mails, and retrieves records for auditing and legal discovery purposes.
Seattle Northwest is sending all its new e-mail to the Permabit box and keeping the HP jukebox going until all the data on that expires. Abad said that's about three years away. He could convert all the data on the jukebox into a format to migrate it to the Permabit device, and thus have only one box to manage, but that would cost $30,000 to $40,000 -- as much as the Permabit device itself. Abad decided it wasn't worth it. Eventually, the firm plans to archive file data on the Permabit system, too.
"With this system in place, our sales guys can relax. There'll be no Enron or Martha Stewart situations happening round here," Abad quipped.
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