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Tackling E-Mail Compliance for the Financial Services Industry

  Product Review published in DM Review Magazine
April 2005 Issue
  By Chu Abad
Review of: Permeon Compliance Vault from Permabit

REVIEWER: Chu Abad, vice president of information technology for Seattle-Northwest Securities.

BACKGROUND: Seattle-Northwest Securities is the Pacific Northwest's premier investment banking firm. The company is the largest underwriter of bonds in the region and a top advisor to bond issuers located in their region. Seattle-Northwest is also the largest market maker in fixed-income securities in the region, with expertise reaching from small public finance clients to some of the largest institutional investors in the country.

PLATFORMS: Seattle-Northwest Securities runs on Microsoft Exchange 2000 with e-mail archiving software from iLumin. The company's e-mail environment consists of approximately 100 users, generating more than 1,000 e-mails daily.

PROBLEM SOLVED: As an investment firm, Seattle-Northwest is subject to SEC 17a-4, which mandates how investment firms must archive e-mail, instant messages and other electronic business records. To ensure that we successfully meet the requirements, our IT department put the following requirements into place: all e-mails across the company (incoming, outgoing and internal) must be archived for a three-year retention period in their original format; storage of these electronic records must be on WORM-based magnetic disk; records must be indexed for easy retrieval, with an indexed duplicate copy made of the record; and comprehensive auditing must be put in place for every step of the process. Our company decided to move from optical technology to WORM-based magnetic disk to support the regulatory requirements mandated by SEC 17a-4. Optical technology does not allow for indexing, making electronic record retrieval a labor-intensive process. Optical also does not cost-effectively scale in growing environments and would not satisfy auditors' requests to retrieve records within a 24-hour period.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Permabit's Permeon Compliance Vault software allows us to comply with even the most stringent government regulations for electronic record retention and verification by securely retaining and quickly accessing archived records such as e-mail, instant messages, financial statements and office documents.

STRENGTHS: First and foremost, the Permeon software gives us the ability to be compliant with electronic records retention regulations - in our case SEC 17a-4. The software enables fast and cost-effective long-term electronic record preservation and Permeon's open architecture ensured a quick and easy integration into our environment (Microsoft's Exchange 2000 for e-mail and iLumin for e-mail archiving).

WEAKNESSES: We initially experienced an interface problem with our Exchange server, but the Permabit developers had a patch installed the next day.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We evaluated our existing vendor, HP (optical technology), as well as EMC's Centera and Network Appliance's SnapLock. EMC's Centera was not able to meet our capacity requirements. With a minimum capacity of 4TB, we couldn't cost justify their system when we only needed to begin with 1TB. In testing the Centera, we found that its performance was well below that of the Permeon system. This would impact us when we're under a 24-hour deadline to produce thousands of e-mails for an audit. The SnapLock compliance software from Network Appliance is a good product, but we were uncomfortable with its redundancy and failover capabilities. The Permabit Permeon Compliance Vault was selected as it provided exactly what we needed - a fast, open and cost-effective way to archive our electronic documents in accordance with SEC 17a-4.

DELIVERABLES: Upon deployment of Permabit's Permeon system, we were able to retain all e-mail records for the appropriate regulation time frame, poll e-mails daily and retrieve any given record within a 24-hour period.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Permabit was very helpful. With the aid of Permabit support staff; we were able to integrate the Permeon software solution in just less than one hour. In addition, the support staff was able to provide troubleshooting solutions and Windows patches within one day of our identification of some integration issues.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is complete and easy to understand.


For more information on related topics visit the following related portals...
Compliance and Content Management.

Chu Abad is vice president of information technology for Seattle-Northwest Securities.

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