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E-mail keeps fuel flowing; maintenance tool provides management capabilities for Exchange environment.

For Port Consolidated, a leading distributor of high-quality motor fuels, lubricants and additives for markets that include Florida, the Caribbean and Latin America, e-mail is not merely a convenient way of communicating, it is at the center of its business, and critical to the company's profitability.

For more than 45 years, Port Consolidated has been delivering millions of gallons of fuel each month to its customers in such diverse industries as industrial manufacturing, marine, automotive, aircraft and agriculture. Whether as regular, recurring scheduled deliveries or just-in-time short orders, Port Consolidated's state-of-the-art fleet gets the fuel to its customers when they need it, where they need it, from any of its six facilities that span Florida from Miami to Jacksonville to Tampa.

Port Consolidated's commitment to customer satisfaction is not just about delivering high-quality, competitively priced products. Prompt, courteous, error-free delivery also is important. With e-mail the principal means of communication with clients for order placement, modification and confirmation, there is no room for e-mail data loss or system downtime.

More than 75 of Port Consolidated's 200 employees have e-mail accounts they use to conduct business on the company's Microsoft Exchange Server system. Those users access the corporate Exchange server to send and receive e-mail from their office workstations in any of the company's six office locations, from home offices or from the road, via notebook computers. The company's main 3-GHz server, with dual Intel Xeon processors and 4 GB RAM, runs Microsoft Windows Server 2003 with Microsoft Exchange 2003, and holds the Exchange store.

Because redundancy, fault tolerance and fail safety are critical, the server connects to a Level 5 RAID system with high-speed SCSI hard drives that spin at 15,000 RPM. The RAID system has multiple fail-safe features, as well, including dual power supplies, to ensure reliability and uptime.

Remote workers connect to the server across the Internet, by way of a virtual private network. The field sales people initiate their connections from wherever they happen to be, via notebook computers that use LaptopConnect service from AT&T or broadband access from Verizon Wireless. For them, reliable inbound and outbound e-mail service from the home office server ensures that orders and fulfillment instructions are sent and responded to in a timely manner.

Timeliness not only means that customers get critical fuel deliveries on time, it also ensures that the sales team has the correct pricing for the day's bids. Prices for the constantly fluctuating commodity products that Port Consolidated sells are sent via e-mail at 5 p.m. each day, so getting that e-mail to every member of the sales team is essential, or customers could be quoted the wrong prices.

"The first thing that I knew we had to do, once we had this highly efficient Microsoft Exchange-based system in place, was to get some third-party management tools," says Richard Ramcharitar, head of IT for Port Consolidated and chief technology officer for Computer Solutions Group, the company that Port Consolidated contracts with for IT management. "Microsoft doesn't provide nearly enough tools to manage an Exchange environment."

Database health has always been the weakest link in most Exchange environments. Left unchecked, Exchange database growth, errors and overall degradation impair system performance and stability, he says, as well as the ability to maintain effective backup and recovery operations.

Ramcharitar began the search for a product that he says could serve as the "eyes inside the Exchange store." As the search concluded, Ramcharitar narrowed the choices to two solutions, finally choosing Lucid8's GOexchange.

"We had experience with other Exchange tools, and looked at a few new ones as we set this system up," he explains. "We chose GOexchange because it looks into the data store and shows us what's in there. Without it, we just had no way of knowing when Exchange would crash. GOexchange logs performance statistics, sends warnings about potential problems and inconsistencies, and saves database disk space."

GOexchange Preventive Maintenance from Lucid8 automates maintenance for Microsoft Exchange 5.5, 2000 and 2003. Designed to optimize the performance of Exchange servers--and the critical e-mail, calendaring and other personal productivity tools that depend on them--GOexchange comes with built-in maintenance routines that help prevent costly data loss or server failure.

GOexchange saves time for Ramcharitar by running automatic expert preventive maintenance routines to optimize the system--both in terms of space and of performance--and minimizes downtime, ultimately preventing crashes that result from poorly maintained, unstable and inefficient databases. Its ability to see into the Port Consolidated MS Exchange database and its functions facilitates checking warnings and correcting errors. Because it re-indexes and defragments the database, it permanently removes white space and deleted items to free up disk space.

GOexchange works to remove hidden, accumulating database errors to increase disk space and rebuild indexes, Ramcharitar adds, while optimizing the Exchange database. On average, he says it reduces Microsoft Exchange storage requirements by 30 to 55 percent, and, when used with a third-party e-mail archiving solution, the storage savings can reach more than 90 percent.

The end result for Port Consolidated is increased performance and stability. Since GOexchange was installed, Port Consolidated's e-mail system has been crash-free. "We implemented GOexchange just a few months after we got our mail server, so we've maintained a healthy Exchange environment ever since," comments Ramcharitar. "While our Exchange database is growing each day, GOexchange helps me recover about five gigabits of storage each year."

For more information from Lucid8:
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Title Annotation:Storage Technologies; Port Consolidated
Publication:Communications News
Date:Aug 1, 2007
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