Jon Williams was well aware of his users' poor e-mail usage patterns. Unfortunately, he lacked the tracking tools needed to pinpoint and stop their naughty behavior. With a migration to Exchange 2000 looming, however, Williams decided to kill two birds with one stone. He went on a mission to stop his users' e-mail abuse and make the migration as smooth as possible.
User-caused e-mail security issues plagued Williams, global IS systems administrator for Orem, Utah-based Morinda Inc., a health supplement company. His users routinely ignored Morinda's e-mail security policies, he said. They often opened big, non-allowable attachments and sent e-mails that were larger than allowed. Essentially, he said, "we had e-mail security policies in place but no means to enforce them."
To top it off, Williams had no way of knowing what and how much users stored on Morinda's six Exchange servers. "If I have a server with 100 users, but it is using the same amount of storage as a server serving 300 people, I need to know who is filling up the space."
Morinda has 1,000 users with 1,000 individual mailboxes in six offices worldwide. Williams manages the 700 U.S. mailboxes, and he also chips in to help administer the other 300. Prior to the Exchange 2000 migration, Morinda had Exchange 5.5 on six servers and Windows 2000 on four servers.
Without a good management tool, Williams spent a lot of time manually monitoring e-mail. He often snooped through suspected abusers' inboxes for evidence, he said. He usually found the evidence he sought, but he knew his time could be spent in better ways.
Williams knew that the old manual monitoring methods would not work after the migration to Exchange 2000. For example, Exchange 5.5 allows more than one mailbox to be assigned to one user, but Exchange 2000 does not. "So, I needed a way to track how many mailboxes were assigned to the same user," he said.
After evaluating several Exchange management products, Williams settled on Houston, TX-based BindView, Inc.'s bv-Control for Microsoft Exchange. Bv-Control had the most reporting capabilities, Williams said.
Bv-Control was easy to install, Williams said. After about an hour, he had it installed on a workstation and reporting was possible. Bv-Control comes pre-packaged with 55 queries that provide reporting capabilities. That reporting lets Williams run queries and quickly pinpoint possible security risks. “ can search, find and delete potentially dangerous e-mails before they damage our systems,”said Williams.
Williams' favorite bv-Control feature is ActiveAdmin, which provides vulnerability assessment capabilities, configuration and security policy establishment and enforcement features for Exchange administration. This tool helps Williams monitor and manage his users inboxes.
Williams uses ActiveAdmin to make mass changes to user accounts. When the name of a department changes, he uses ActiveAdmin to change all users within that department at once, rather than having to rename each user individually. "I can select 'all' and change them in one place," he said. Williams described ActiveAdmin as "slick," "reliable" (and) "the coolest."
Williams uses bv-Control for Microsoft Exchange v3.0 to organize Morinda's directories, analyze the status of user mailboxes and secure the Exchange infrastructure.
In addition to simplifying e-mail management, bv-Control's reporting features have even saved face for some of Morinda's top executives. A few times, Williams said, executives have unintentionally sent e-mails to the entire office. "With bv-Control, I can go in and kill the message," said Williams.
When a user sends e-mails that are offensive, Williams uses bv-Control to find the culprit. "I can run a report by sent date, subject, attachment or name," he said. There are many filters that track e-mails to their sources, even if the sources try to hide themselves.
Williams spent the last year, but especially the last four months, seriously planning and testing for the Exchange 2000 migration. He recently moved user mailboxes to 2000. Next, he'll move three of his six Exchange 5.5 servers to Exchange 2000 and then get rid of the other three.
While a lot of the features in bv-Control can be found built into Exchange 2000, Williams said, he likes that they are all in one place in bv-Control.
Williams can't calculate the amount of time or money bv-Control has saved Morinda. But, he said, "bv-Control has paid for itself several times over."
This was first published in June 2002