Montreal firm’s app to archive BlackBerry SMS

A software package from a Montreal vendor – designed to search for archived text messages from BlackBerry smart phones – is something every organization with mobile workers should consider, industry analysts say.

Begininfinite Inc., which goes by the brand name Gwava, yesterday announced the release of Retain for BlackBerry Enterprise Server; software which helps companies store and retrieve information on messages sent by BlackBerrys.

“If [employees] do a lot of text messaging it would be worthwhile to get this solution,” said Michelle Warren, a senior analyst with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research.

Although BlackBerry Enterprise Server archives e-mails sent over BlackBerry devices, the information it stores on short messaging systems (SMS), PIN messages and phone conversations is very difficult to retrieve, said Mitch Lauer, Gwava’s director of business development.

He said a common misperception among mobile workers is that BlackBerry Enterprise Server will not archive SMS messages or phone calls. In fact, he said, it will keep a list of all text messages, PIN messages (which are sent between BlackBerries using codes identifying the devices) between BlackBerry users and logs of phone conversations (which number was called and how long the conversation lasted).

However, the information is stored in a repository similar to “a giant Excel spreadsheet. “Trying to garner any useful information … is going to be extremely difficult.”

Gwava’s Retain software package includes Retain Archive Viewer, which can be installed on IT administrator’s workstations, plus server software which copies the archived information into a SQL Server database. Users need SQL Server 2000 or 2005 to use GWAVA Retain.

The Archive Viewer lets IT or business managers search the message records in different ways. For example, they can determine which employees sent the most text messages, and whether any keywords were sent over SMS. “I need to know if this word was used in the last week in an organization,” Lauer said – whether it’s trade secrets being passed on to a competitor or information on an upcoming merger or acquisition being released to a stock trader before it’s released to the general public.

“If an employee is leaking out confidential information to a competitor that could mean a loss of millions of dollars,” said Mark Levitt, program vice-president for collaborative computing and the enterprise workplace at Framingham, Mass.-based market research firm IDC. “If someone sues and says the company should have know what that user is doing, that could cost a million in [damages],” he added.

The software license cost is 40 per cent of the cost for BlackBerry Enterprise Server, and that doesn’t include the price of SQL Server.

BlackBerry administrators could disable SMS and PIN messaging (instead of buying Retain), but relying on wireless e-mail is more expensive than text messaging, Lauer said. “If [you] can save data charges by utilizing PIN, it’s a humungous savings to [your] company,” Lauer said. He added about 70 per cent of IT managers at Fortune 1000 companies he spoke to said they turned off text messaging on their BlackBerry devices. But, of those who did, about 90 per cent later decided they actually needed the technology.

“Text messaging is now becoming the communications tool of choice,” said Richard Bliss, Gwava’s vice-president of marketing. “Companies would like to turn it off but are finding they need to have it in place.”

Warren, however, recommends BlackBerry customers monitor their text messaging for at least a month before purchasing a product like Gwava to determine whether it’s more cost-effective to disable text messaging.

“If they don’t have a lot of texting then perhaps then can ask employees not to text,” she said. But she agrees companies who do allow employees to use SMS on their BlackBerry have a legal requirement to store the information. Levitt agreed, adding Gwava Retain would also help employees search quickly for records of their own communications.

“Having this type of archiving is something that is really necessary,” Levitt said. Lauer said all of the Retain software is installed at the server and administrator’s workstation, so it does not require any modifications to the BlackBerry devices.

This not only saves administrators the hassle of bringing in all devices for upgrades, but it also prevents users from tampering with their devices to allow them to send messages without being archived.

The system requirements are BlackBerry Enterprise Server version 4.1 or later. Archive Viewer requires Windows XP or Vista and 10 GB of hard drive space. Although it currently requires SQL Server, Lauer said the company plans to release connector software for other databases in the future.

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