The Emergency Messaging System (EMS) kicks in within seconds after activation by the company's IT staff, automatically routing all mail sent and received from and to the corporation's addresses through a secure, offsite server.
EMS broadcasts notifications to employees that the secondary system is operating, and they then turn to a URL to send and receive mail via a Web-based interface. Once the crisis is past, and the corporation's primary mail system is back up and running, all messages during the disaster are automatically merged back into the company's own messaging platform.
"E-mail has fast become mission-critical," said Michael Rosenfelt, MessageOne's VP of marketing. "It's the only application that literally touches 100% of the company; it's the lifeline that lets corporations reach customers, clients, and suppliers. No matter what happens--virus, line cut, network congestion, or tornado--companies using EMS will have a way to communicate."
EMS requires the installation of just one piece of software, the EMS Directory Manager. Sitting on a Windows 2000 server, Director Manager mirrors every mailbox on every server of the enterprise to the backup EMS system, and then stays synched. IT simply needs to designate the EMS backup as a secondary or tertiary mail-exchanger record, Rosenfelt said.
In the event of a catastrophe, EMS can be activated in a number of ways, including a phone call or a visit to a Web-based control panel. Employees are immediately notified via short messaging service, BlackBerry, pagers, and alternate E-mail addresses that the emergency service is handling mail.
Mail then automatically flows to the backup EMS server, transparently retaining such key elements of the primary mail system as address books, mail lists, and document-transfer capabilities. Since recipients see the primary mail address, they won't even know the company's having an outage.
Using a Web-based interface that can be set to look like the familiar screens of popular online E-mail services such as Yahoo Mail or Hotmail, users send and receive mail normally.
When the primary mail system has been recovered and restored, EMS automatically melds messages sent and received during the outage. That's crucial to companies that require archiving of all messages, even retaining the messages' original date stamps.
Although EMS works with virtually any enterprise-level E-mail infrastructure, from Exchange 5.5/2000 and Notes to cc: Mail, it relies on Linux and open-source technologies.
"Our customers told us they wanted to fail-over to a system functionally the same [as their primary mail system], but structurally different," said Rosenfelt. Linux was selected in large part because the Windows/Exchange combination is such a tempting (and frequently attacked) target of virus writers and intruders.
EMS can be hosted by SunGard, IBM Recovery Services, Hewlett-Packard disaster recovery facilities, or at the company's own secure data center. Pricing is on a per-set basis, and costs from $3 to $20 per seat per year. In comparison, Rosenfelt pointed out, traditional E-mail system replication runs $72 to $120 per set annually.