Omniva offers control over corporate e-mail

Companies fretting over whether or not their employees are complying with e-mail policies and retention regulations are being offered a helping hand by Omniva Policy Systems, which is launching two new software products Monday, offering to help ease the nerves of weary executives.

Omniva’s Policy Manager Enterprise Edition and Policy Manager Wireless Gateway software both provide secure e-mail and policy enforcement integrated with Microsoft Corp.’s Outlook Express. The Enterprise Edition provides secure e-mail functions for corporate desktop computers, while the Wireless Gateway is a supplemental offering that allows e-mail rules and security to be extended to wireless devices such as BlackBerrys and PocketPCs.

The software provides 128 bit e-mail encryption and allows users to stipulate who can receive certain messages, as well as what recipients are allowed to do with the correspondence.

The products happen to be rolling out at a time when e-mail security and control has become a crucial issue for companies given the recent rash of corporate scandals that have demonstrated the perils of not controlling or properly retaining e-mail documents.

The Omniva software allows users to send encrypted messages and the keys for decrypting them are stored on the Omniva Policy Server. When recipients of the e-mail open the messages the keys are automatically downloaded from the policy server. Recipients do not have to use Omniva software or open attachments to read the e-mail. The messages contain embedded information on what the recipient is allowed to do with the e-mail and when it should expire.

The San Francisco company said the system’s success lies in the fact that is simple and easy to use.

“If you make using e-mail any harder, people won’t do it,” said John Dawes, vice president of product marketing at Omniva.

Omniva said that it incorporated the security and policy functions into the Outlook Express interface so users would be comfortable with the system. Through a pull-down menu, users can select whether an e-mail can be sent only to company employees, to one designated recipient, or to anyone. Users can also limit what recipients can do with e-mail, preventing them from forwarding, copying or printing, as well as set e-mail expiration dates.

Company e-mail policies, such as length of time for document retention and mail forwarding abilities, can be centrally set by IT managers. This way, businesses do not have to worry whether individual employees remember and comply with e-mail policies, Omniva said. This policy automation is especially important given the current emphasis on corporate transparence and adherence to regulations, the company added.

Omniva Policy Manager Enterprise Edition is priced at US$15,000 per server and US$150 per client, the company said. The Wireless Gateway will set companies back US$15,000 per server and US$75 per wireless device. Although the wireless software was designed with the BlackBerry products in mind, it also supports PocketPCs.

The products integrate with Microsoft Active Directory, .Net and Microsoft Management Consultant.

The company created the Wireless Gateway following customer demand for the product, said Omniva President Kumar Sreekanti.

“Executives said that they wouldn’t even talk to us about secure e-mail unless we could provide it on their BlackBerrys as well,” Sreekanti said.

Omniva said that the Wireless Gateway is the first product on the market to provide secure, policy-enforcing e-mail to the wireless devices.

“E-mail has become mission critical … And you can’t just do business within the firewall,” said Dawes.