Unified Messaging at Authorities, Banks and Insurance Companies

High availability and security in the focus

by Iris Walter | serVonic GmbH | Public Relations


In business life, information is exchanged via various channels. By e-mail, fax, telephone with voice box or SMS. Whereas the information was sent and received with different devices, more and more companies and organizations nowadays apply unified messaging solutions. Because unified messaging unifies all the messages within one user interface at the PC, the PC becomes the universal device for e-mail, fax, voice mail and SMS. In order to implement a consistent communication platform also in complex IT-architectures of large enterprises and organizations like authorities, banks and insurance companies, UM-solutions must be able to fulfill specific requirements. A high ability to integrate the UM-solution into the architecture here is indispensable.


Integration into the existing IT-environment

Basically, there are two ways to realize unified messaging: As stand-alone communication server or as add-on solution to available messaging systems. A stand-alone communication server contains all sorts of messages and builds up an own architecture including data bases, mailboxes and Message Transfer Agent for the sending and the reception. Add-on solutions, on the other hand, add to already available messaging systems, make use of the available architecture – including data bases, Message Transfer Agent and messaging client – and only add the lacking features fax, voice, SMS, mobile notification and remote inquiry. As companies and organizations like authorities, banks and insurance companies normally operate a messaging system already, e.g. IBM Lotus Domino, an add-on solution makes sense. Double data storage that would cause an enormous need of resources and therewith hardware – especially in large enterprises and organizations – can be avoided therewith. Example for such an add-on solution is IXI-UMS Unified Messaging Server from serVonic. Because of its Single-Store architecture, the solution directly collaborates with the data bases of the respective messaging system. Primary store for all the messages are the mailbox data bases.

With serVonic’s “Cluster”, the UM-messages can be provided in a highly available environment by load balancing

Integration into highly available cluster-environments

With small and medium-sized businesses and organizations, which mostly have one single IBM Lotus Domino, the integration of a UM-solution in the existing IT-architecture is easy. The UM-solution is integrated into the messaging system via the respective Integrating Connector. The user receives all the messages in his regular inbox. Authorities, banks and insurance companies, however, often apply so-called computer clusters. In order to increase high availability and performance, several IBM Lotus Domino Servers here are designed redundantly and are connected with each other via a network. In case of a failure or when a server is not available because of maintenance work, the remaining servers take over the necessary processes. A UM-solution should be able to integrate into this strategy and provide the UM-features highly available, too. With the serVonic “Cluster“, a multiple computer concept with IXI-UMS servers in parallel operation is available for this. All the UM-systems installed are active and process the message volume parallel. If one system fails, the remaining systems take over the jobs in the queue additionally. Thereby, the message store as well as the message transport plays an essential role. So the UM-solutions that use an own message store have to be protected from the messaging server separately. When the UM-messages – like with IXI-UMS – are stored in the IBM Lotus Domino Server directly, the high availability mechanisms for the e-mail store automatically are effective for the UM-messages as well. The UM-messages do not have to be stored separately. Beside the storage place – separate store or Single Store –, the messages must be available again as soon as possible in case of a failure. Here the message transport and the protocols used for it are essential. When the message transport is handled via SMTP – this means common Internet technology –, procedures like “Round Robin“ can be implemented by means of DNS (Domain Name System) or NLB (Network Load Balancing). When a UM-system fails, the messaging server passes on the jobs in the queue to the still working UM-server fully automatic. The UM-system and therewith all the messages are available to the user without interruption – however at the cost of performance. In order to reduce the period of time to the restoration of the full performance of a UM-system, the additional implementation of so-called monitoring systems is recommended. For this, some UM-manufacturers like e.g. serVonic offer solutions especially designed for unified messaging. That way, the IXI-Inspector allows the administrator to control processes, servers and queues of the UM-solution steadily. For the state of an emergency, different actions can be determined: On the one hand, an immediate notification of the administrator by e-mail, network message or SMS. On the other hand, standard measures like e.g. a services restart can be executed. The monitoring thereby can be handled locally on every machine or from remote, from a central site.

With the IXI-UMS Unified Messaging Server, also complex security demands at authorities, banks and insurance companies can be taken into account

Integration into security concepts

Beside the high availability, the security issue plays an important role with the exchange of information. It is very important to guarantee confidentiality, integrity, availability and liability of the information to a sufficient extent. How important the issue security is at a company or an organization first of all depends on the field of activity. This is why authorities, banks and insurance companies, which mainly work with confident and personal data, give highest priority to the security aspects. Other companies and organizations whose main tasks are the public provision of information, e.g. service companies, may not pay so much attention to the security issue. The definition of a security strategy basically is the task of the top management or of administrative departments authorized by it, which determine general security measures in terms of official guidelines. Concrete security measures are contained in a detailed security concept, which is normally implemented by IT-security departments. Beside the use of anti-virus software, the creation of backups or the placing of restricted user permission, the installation of firewalls is one of the most important issues in a security concept. Unsolicited accesses with the data transfer between external and internal networks can be prevented that way. A UM-solution that can be integrated smoothly here is IXI-UMS from serVonic. The modular design of the software allows the decoupling of the single IXI-UMS software components. Mail system-near components such as Integrating Connectors and Render Service can be separated from components that communicate with the outside – PBX – by firewalls. That way, no direct connection from the outside into the LAN is established at any time of the data transmission. The outbound connection via PBX is fully separated from the LAN in terms of the data content and data formats, protocols as well as in terms of time. In addition to that, the transport of the data is handled via well-known and easy to manage protocols as well as via few ports. This allows the administrator an uncomplicated configuration and control on the part of an existing firewall.

Conclusion

With the application of UM-solutions, companies and organizations – no matter how big and from which branch – can simplify the communication for their employees and thus make it more effective. Whereas here there are no differences in using the features for the single employees in authorities, banks and insurance companies, these are clearly considerable with the implementation for the responsible IT-employees. A detailed analysis of the requirements especially in terms of IT-environment, high availability and security here enables to find a suitable solution and to implement unified messaging also in complex IT-architectures successfully.

Copyright: serVonic GmbH
As of: 2.5.2007

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