Region sticks with Novell to combat spam

When the Region of Durham, just east of Toronto, was faced with a consolidation project that would bring together 1,500 employees in several offices and departments in one new building by the spring of 2005, some members of the IT department viewed the move as an opportunity to switch from Novell’s GroupWise platform to Microsoft Exchange.

One of those in favour of the switch was Ron Blakey, the region’s director of information technology.

“When we started looking at the consolidation work we’d be doing and setting the roadmap for where we were going, we were of the opinion to move away from Novell products and GroupWise and go with what the rest of the world uses,” he said.

After meeting with both Microsoft and Novell though, the region decided to stick with GroupWise and upgrade from version 5.5 to 6.5.

“Novell was very good,” Blakey explained. “We went out to Markham and they showcased NetWare 6.5, GroupWise 6.5 and some of their other products. And I was one that was swayed.”

One big factor in Novell’s favour was that it was cheaper for Durham to upgrade its Novell software than to completely switch to a Microsoft environment.

Another factor was the anti-spam features built into GroupWise 6.5. Durham’s employees had been averaging about 50 spam messages each per day. After upgrading to GroupWise 6.5 in March, and installing an anti-spam product from Omni Technology, the amount of junk mail fell significantly, Blakey said.

GroupWise 6.5 allows IT administrators to set rules that give scores to e-mail, based on various filters. If a message receives a score above a set threshold, it will be automatically discarded. Other mail that doesn’t receive a high enough score to be discarded, but does get a high enough score to be considered suspicious, gets tagged with a flag, designating it as probable spam.

Since the upgrade, the region has yet to identify any e-mail that was accidentally discarded after being flagged as spam, Blakey said. Blakey’s biggest beef with GroupWise and Novell products in general, is that they are often difficult to integrate with third-party offerings.

“For example we have a helpdesk product, we’re going to be deploying a new voice over IP product when we move to our new headquarters, and unified messaging from some of the vendors doesn’t integrate with GroupWise,” he said. “It’s Microsoft first, Lotus second and Novell comes down the list.”

Novell’s lack of popularity can also be an advantage though, Blakey noted. “No one writes viruses for GroupWise,” he said. “We aren’t vulnerable to the same vuruses that proliferate for everyone else.”

Ross Chevalier, chief technology officer for Novell Canada, said security is one of GroupWise’s biggest advantages over the competition.

“One of the hallmarks of GroupWise internationally is we haven’t taken a virus hit or been downed by a security threat in over seven years,” he said. Another big advantage is that GroupWise will work with any operating platform, Chevalier noted.

“From a user perspective, messaging is ubiquitous,” he explained. “It’s available not only on your PC, but on your Macintosh, on your Linux box, or your browser, or your cell phone, or your intelligent personal digital assistant, such as the Blackberry.”

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