The Auburn-Washburn School District provides public education to approximately 5,300 Kindergarten through 12th graders in Topeka, KS, and serves 128 square miles of rural and suburban areas. Terms like academically challenging, progressive, small classes, high-achievement, modern, and excellent have all been used to describe the district.
The Auburn-Washburn School District consists of nine schools and a total of 903 teachers and administrators who use email through the district’s main server. These 903 education professionals average 12,000 to 14,000 emails per day. The large number of individual users, coupled with the enormous volume, created an interesting challenge for Don Williams, Director of Information Technology at the Auburn District, when a federal mandate required him to implement an email archive solution for the entire district.
A New Term to Learn: E-Discovery
The tremendous growth in email usage has made it a primary source of legal discovery; when organizations are faced with litigation, demands for email records are virtually inevitable. Every organization must now implement effective and efficient email archive solutions in order to meet the e-discovery demands of possible litigation.
When thinking about e-discovery, organizations should consider how preserved emails can be used to mount an aggressive defense that can save fortunes in unnecessary settlements and verdicts. Additionally, according to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP), it is actually a federal offense to destroy emails.
The bottom line is, most organizations need an email archive with search and retrieval functionality, and school districts are just as susceptible to litigation as any other organization.
The Selection Process
According to Williams, it took the district several months to get to the point where they felt confident their implementation would be compliant with the FRCP rules. In Kansas, they also had state law to contend with. Interestingly, the state always had a seven-year retention time frame for paper records, but never specified an end time frame when emails could be discarded.
Williams, with Auburn-Washburn School District Network Specialist, Mark Mitchell, set about the task of selecting archival software. Since the district did not have an archival solution previously, they were starting from scratch. In a way, this was good, because there are three parts to this process, archival, search and output, with security concerns at each step, and it can be most advisable to install a complete solution rather than a patchwork of individual segments.
Although there was no time frame specified for the installation, Williams felt “it was important to get it done as quickly as possible.” Fortunately, Williams and Mitchell had anticipated this mandate and had reviewed available products about a year earlier. So, when the time came to narrow the decision, they targeted three products for serious consideration.
The Contentverse Solution
Computhink offers several features in Contentverse that others do not. First, Contentverse interfaces directly with Novell GroupWise, which the Auburn district was already using for email. Second, Computhink’s technical experts were willing to work with such a large-scale project involving over 900 users and almost 14,000 emails per day. Third, Contentverse offers a highly advanced search and retrieve functionality, enabling search by keyword, date, timeframe, and sender/receiver.
Soon, the decision was made. They decided to install Computhink’s Contentverse Content and Document Management System. This effectively gave them an archival solution and interfaced seamlessly with their existing internal Novell GroupWise Email System. Contentverse allows archival of all e-mail messages that are sent and received by their email users.
In addition, the system can be utilized to store and retain all other forms of electronic content, so the Auburn-Washburn School District now has the flexibility to extend the system’s usage later – taking advantage of the full feature set of the Contentverse content management software.
Document Management and Archival Functionality
The initial install only took a day and a half. They found Contentverse to be smartly designed with functionality that is easy to utilize.
For example, Contentverse supports over 400 file formats in their attachment archival capabilities, so the original format software is not required to view the attachment. Additionally, to save space, if the same attachment is sent to multiple recipients, it is intuitively saved only once.
The process actually begins by installing the Contentverse content management solution. That’s the part of the solution that provides secure and encrypted storage of content, controlled access to archived content, an audit trail for tracking activity, and revision control for tracking changes made to content.
The Contentverse solution provides multiple retrieval options with search features including full text searching of the email message and attachments, field-based indexing, and navigating the filing structure (e.g., by date or week number email was archived).
Output options include print, email, fax, export and send to, all based on user security rights. Using the check-out option, content can be published to a CD or other writeable media. This allows search results to be published out and viewed, granting those without the Contentverse application the ability to easily search and review content. Furthermore viewing is made available right in Contentverse without having the authoring application.
Next, installing Contentverse provides a flexible configuration, automated processing of content from GroupWise to Contentverse, archiving from multiple GroupWise locations to Contentverse and integrated exception handling process.
Finally, Contentverse email handling does not require user intervention – ensuring adherence to any organization’s e-mail usage and retention policies, as well as most retention related regulations.
According to Mitchell, “Making sure the functionality applies to the extremely numerous user base is an ongoing, but painless process.” Both Williams and Mitchell agree that Computhink’s technicians are expert professionals who are inspired to make the process easy for their customers.
Mitchell says they have around 1/4 million emails retained over two months, and that’s not counting the thousands of emails that get caught in the spam-blocker and are automatically rejected from unnecessary archiving. They have one terabyte of storage space on the server, which should last a long time when compression is factored in. In the first seven weeks, the Auburn-Washburn School District used about ten gigabytes. For additional storage, they have a connection to two terabytes of storage that can be accessed as required.
Says Mitchell, “The process is all automatic. The software archives automatically and does not permit a user to delete an email before it is archived.”
Return on Investment (ROI)
Computhink created Contentverse with a built-in ROI advantage by making its acquisition and deployment costs affordable. “Email archiving and retrieval is not an installation where ROI can be found in the conventional sense,” says Williams, “if the time should come when we are responsible for e-discovery, then the cost of this installation will be extremely minimal compared to our potential savings in civil judgments or federal non-compliance fines. People need to know this is a law and must be taken seriously.”
“Computhink’s technicians are willing to work around my schedule,” says Mitchell, “That really says a lot about their inspiration and professionalism.”
“The bottom-line,” says Williams, “is the software has all the necessary features and compatibility we were looking for at a price we could afford. Our ongoing relationship with Computhink couldn’t be better and we view email archival and retrieval as a problem solved.”
Auburn-Washburn School District can be found on the web at usd437.net.