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TECH TALK: Messaging: The Smart Messaging Server

February 16th, 2001 · No Comments

The Messaging Server can be either within a company (if the company chooses to manage its own mail operations) or can be outsourced. Examples of mail servers are Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange. Examples of outsourced email providers are Critical Path and Mail.com.

As a service, messaging is critical, and yet must be scaleable, reliable, affordable and easy to administer. Messages don’t stop coming, so uptime has to be 24x7x365. Messaging volumes are also going up quite rapidly, as are the sizes of messages. Messaging Servers are where at least part of the intelligence within companies lies.

Here are some of the features a Smart Messaging Server should have:

Analytics: Emails can be analysed in various ways to extract intelligence out of them. Just be seeing who is sending to whom can provide information on the “hubs” within companies and with departments. This can even be taken to the manager-employees’ level: is there a skew in their communications? Just analyzing the “to” and from” fields can reveal all. Next, comes the analysis of the content of emails. Since all emails come and go from a centralized server, it is possible to look at all the emails and search for knowledge and experts. One company which does this is Tacit Knowledge. Writes Teri Robinson:

Half the battle of managing knowledge is identifying the correct person to answer a question or solve a problem.

“People often don’t know who in a company to request information from,” says David Gilmour, founder, president and CEO of Palo Alto, Calif.-based Tacit Knowledge Systems Inc. “So, they do the dreaded thing and send out a broadcast e-mail, which ultimately impairs productivity.”

Gilmour says Tacit offers a way for the enterprise to overcome this obstacle using e-mail. The start-up’s KnowledgeMail and KnowledgeMail Plus products work transparently with existing e-mail systems such as Lotus Notes or Microsoft Exchange, weaving the messages that workers pass back and forth into a knowledge infrastructure.

KnowledgeMail products look for keywords and phrases in e-mail to create a profile of a worker’s knowledge and skill set. It uses the profiles to field co-worker requests for expertise and forwards them to the desired expert.

Routing and Syncing: As devices proliferate and an always-on infrastructure becomes reality, emails will come to us continuously. This means that the Message Server needs to (a) be able to route the message to me on the appropriate device, and (b) be able to automatically sync the various message clients based on what action I take with the message. For example, if I choose to delete the message, it should show up on any other device that I have. In this always-on world, the server also knows two more items: my location, and the time. This can now be used to create location-aware and time-aware email. One such example is alerts.

Spam and Virus Control: Unsolicited emails and viruses are going to be two of the biggest banes of email. While many message servers do have filters in place, more care will continuously need to be taken to safeguard against these twin threats.

Speed and Availability: While some of us may store mail on clients, it makes greater sense to centralize storage on the server. This makes backup and other mail management easier. It also means that we must be able to get fast access to email from anywhere.

Messaging Servers will be as mission-critical as web servers have become, because users have come to expect messaging as a utility service. To make this vision come true, we also need to think of the Smart Messaging Network.

Tags: Tech Talk

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