E-mail hoster grapples with storage issues

With e-mail firmly established as the most critical tool in office communication, a Canadian company that helps companies manage their messaging needs is finding storage to be a growing concern.

Ceryx, a hosted e-mail provider, said it has signed a deal with Fujitsu Canada, which will bring Eternus storage systems into its data infrastructure. Ceryx offers hosted Microsoft Exchange messaging services via two redundant data centres, in order to ensure high availability its customers.

“We’re finding, especially in a hosted environment, is that people are just keeping [their e-mail] and companies aren’t putting policies in place that require them to purge,” Bill Di Nardo, executive vice president at Ceryx, said. “Plus, I think people are communicating far more extensively via e-mail as a collaboration tool. It’s not uncommon for 5MB and 10MB size Excel spreadsheets. That adds up quickly.”

Prior to switching to Fujitsu, Ceryx used direct-attached storage. Di Nardo said in order to ensure Ceryx could keep up with increasing storage demands, the company had to reevaluate its system.

“It’s not that anything was wrong [with the old system], but it really boiled down to elegant scalability,” Di Nardo said. “We started with more direct-attached storage in the days when people had 50MB mailboxes, so from an IOPS perspective, we would run out of server capacity and users on it before we ran out of storage.”

Di Nardo said that in today’s environment, with some mailboxes containing gigabytes of data, companies who don’t adjust with run out of storage before running out of server capacity.

Info-Tech analyst William Terrill said the storage infrastructure market has become a multi-billion dollar industry, because of these reasons as well as the increasing virtualization movement.

“Because virtualization brings the utilization of a company’s servers up to a decent level, if you have data on a direct-attached storage device, than you no longer have physical access to that data,” Terrill said. “So by putting the storage on a SAN, the application doesn’t care where it runs. If it can access that storage area network, it can access that operating system, it can access that application, and it can access its data.”

And in terms of the increasing presence of spam and phishing scams, Di Nardo said that, while it was an area of concern, it was only a secondary reason to make the storage upgrade.

“Spam is up rather dramatically, our numbers would suggest that spam is up about 16 per cent from Q1 last year, but probably more importantly, the average size of a spam message is up 60 per cent,” Di Nardo said. “But, while it has had a slight impact, the reality is that we purge that stuff fairly quickly, what’s really applying the need for a lot of storage is that people are producing more and more digital access and their need to want to retain it.”