Scoring from outside the inbox

It’s easy to think that a football team like Tottenham Hotspur is all about the players. But behind Carling Cup-winning internationals such as Dimitar Berbatov, Robbie Keane and Ledley King is a membership of 70,000, a support staff of 250 and a global fan base – most of whom are on the end of an email.

“Even though we’re a relatively small organisation, there was significant mail traffic,” says Tottenham’s IT manager, Philip Rose.

“While our membership base is 70,000, our stadium can only hold 36,000 people – so we’re in a sell-out situation all the time and people can be desperate to get tickets. We encourage people to go online rather than use the phone because it is far quicker, and obviously email is part of that.”

But until recently, there were other problems with incoming mail. “Spam was becoming a major problem, and shutdowns and reboots took forever,” says Rose.

Users were compounding the problem by hoarding mail, and just keeping the servers up and running was becoming a major challenge.

“Until a few years ago, we used outsourced mail solutions, but the spam became unmanageable. The service we were with was unable to provide a solution, so we parted company and

set up Exchange in house, bolting on a third-party spam filter, and let users look for false positives if they wanted.”

But it became clear that managing Exchange was not going to be straightforward. “If the phones go down, most people have their mobiles, but God help us if the email goes down,” Rose says. “Email is the most sensitive [IT service] in terms of availability – you have to minimise downtime. Simple things like back-ups and maintenance posed unique problems.”

The biggest problem was that the mail stored on Exchange was inherently going to grow. “Our chairman finds it abhorrent to delete email and so had 2,000 items in his inbox, as did the financial director,” says Rose.

The problem led Rose to search for a mail archiving solution. The IT team knew they wanted to go with a major vendor, “because we didn’t want to be trailblazing on something as critical as this”, so they eventually chose [archiving consulting firm] Bluesource and Symantec Enterprise Vault.

“We used a reseller in London, which meant they could be on site if we needed them, and took a support contract with Bluesource so we could resolve anything quickly and proactively,” he says.

Mail is now stored on the Exchange server for only 30 days, “and now we can power off and reboot in a matter of seconds. We also took the opportunity to virtualise the entire estate at the same time.”

His advice to fellow IT managers similarly struggling with their email servers?

“I don’t think we’d run Exchange without the knowledge base on-hand or on-tap. If you’re considering running Exchange in-house or have already implemented it, then without specific skills in that area you should seriously consider a support contract – assuming you regard email as essential, as we do.”

Further reading

Email most stressful app Repeatedly interrupting work in order to check email erodes worker productivity

Businesses fear email data leakage Half of all employees admit inappropriate emailing

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