It wasn’t a disaster situation, but during a recent move in which law firm Blaney McMurtry LLP had to uproot all three floors of its offices, it had a chance to test its new e-mail business continuity plan. Lawyers have to respond to client requests 24/7, so it was imperative the company’s e-mail

and phone systems were available during the move, says Wendy Wiltshire, manager of information technology at the Toronto-based firm.

Even though the move took place during a weekend, the lawyers still needed access to e-mail. Because the firm wasn’t replacing its equipment, but moving it, there just wasn’t any way to keep its internal system up.

Wiltshire began looking into possible solutions. At first, Blaney McMurtry considered duplicating its e-mail system internally.

“”It just wasn’t a cost-effective approach. We really only needed a solution for about 18 hours,”” Wiltshire says.

So the company began looking for outside help, and came across Ceryx, an e-mail outsourcing company that also offers a Business Continuity Messaging (BCM) service. Outsourcing the e-mail continuity saved Blaney McMurtry not only hardware cost but also on valuable manpower that was needed to look after other aspects of the move.

Mission-critical

During the move, Blaney McMurtry’s 100-plus lawyers were able to access their e-mail via a Web browser using 128-bit SSL3 encryption. Now that the firm has settled into its new digs, it plans on training the rest of its 150 or so admin staff on the system, as it will continue to use Ceryx as part of its business continuity strategy.

“”E-mail is now really the single most mission-critical application on everybody’s network,”” says Gus Harsfai, president and CEO of Ceryx, which houses its proprietary BCM technology at Q9 Networks in Toronto.

When disaster strikes your e-mail, it’s highly visible to the outside world, Harsfai says, as those sending messages to you will receive error messages.

“”It’s more than just making sure your e-mail is getting in. It’s more the example you’re setting for the rest of the world in terms of how you manage your IT department.””

The main advantage of outsourcing e-mail to a third party is companies don’t have to devote resources to setting up, updating and maintaining the services in-house, says Melanie Posey, a research director at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC. But some organizations have reservations about handing over their e-mail to others, she says.

However, the main problem is that they aren’t aware the service exists, Posey says. “”That’s the problem with the SMB market — you can’t reach them.””

But having outsourced its e-mail business continuity plan, Blaney McMurtry sees the value of it.

One lawyer was in the midst of dealing with a client on an important issue and they were exchanging e-mail on a regular basis, Wiltshire says.

The client was not even aware that the law firm was in the middle of a move.

“”There was no disruption in the lawyer’s ability to provide service to our client, and that’s really what it’s all about.””

In terms of the phones, Blaney McMurtry worked with Bell Canada to ensure minimal disruption. The system was taken down at 6 p.m. on Friday, moved into the new office by 8 p.m. and up and running by 10 p.m. During that time, all phone calls were forwarded to a single line, which was monitored.

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