Product Reviews

Find that Mail

DigiScope can save you hours of searching for lost e-mail messages.

DigiScope
REDMOND RATING
Documentation 20%
9.0
Installation 20%
9.0
Ease of Use 20%
9.0
Feature Set 20%
7.0
Administration 20%
9.0
Overall Rating:
8.6


Key:
1: Virtually inoperable or nonexistent
5: Average, performs adequately
10: Exceptional

E-mail is one of the most widespread and widely used, potentially controversial and contentious applications in the enterprise. Virtually everyone uses e-mail for some facet of their jobs. In some cases, it can represent up to 90 percent of what a knowledge worker does during a typical business day. It's as important now as the phone was in the days before e-mail.

Yet for such an essential and ubiquitous application, people treat it with the same cavalier attitude that they treat Solitaire. E-mail storage is haphazard, organization is nonexistent, and users routinely neglect, move, forget about and even delete e-mails they know they're going to need at some point in the future.

That's partly Outlook's fault.

Outlook is a decent mail reader, but lacks truly sophisticated organization and archiving facilities. Another big part is the general lack of awareness of good e-mail management practices by Outlook users.

Few enterprises train users in e-mail management. That lack of skill shows itself in regularly lost, deleted or misplaced e-mails. Unfortunately, all too often it's the Exchange administrator or help desk analyst who has to dig through old e-mail archives to find that missing e-mail. In some cases, recovery may well prove impossible.

Under the Scope
This is where DigiScope comes in. Lucid8's DigiScope helps you recover lost, deleted and archived mailbox items. It can search, extract and restore mailboxes, folders and individual e-mail related items. It can search through un-mounted or offline Microsoft Exchange Server databases, Exchange database snapshots presented to the file system, or directly from Lucid8's DigiVault repositories.

It can restore saved files to a production Exchange server, and export to a .PST file, an .MSG file or an XML document. It can also search and retrieve only the attachment files, leaving the messages behind.

DigiScope supports Microsoft Exchange Server 2000, Exchange Server 2003 and Exchange Server 2007 (I tested with Exchange 2003 files).

One of the biggest problems I've experienced is working with .PST files that were created on different versions of Outlook. DigiScope makes this a non-issue by letting you update Microsoft Messaging Application Programming Interface (MAPI) files. You'll have to update MAPI files to read files created with newer versions of Outlook.

To give you access to a broader range of .PST files, DigiScope lets you update MAPI files on the fly. Simply select Update MAPI Files from the tools menu, browse to a server containing the desired files, select them and download. That's all it takes. DigiScope uses them to recognize versions of the other .PST files.

Load Your E-Mail
DigiScope installs on your administrator desktop system. As long as you can reach both the offline files and the production Exchange server, you can install it in any physical location. Installation is fast and easy. It takes only a few minutes and requires little in the way of configuration.

You'll see two panes in the DigiScope console. The top one contains the offline Exchange trees. The offline tree includes archived data or data stored through alternative backup methods. You must add and mount the data files within DigiScope before you can do any data recovery. This is where you search for e-mails and attachments you need to restore. You can mount Exchange server (.EDB) files, .PST files and files you create with Lucid8's DigiVault continuous backup product.

The bottom pane presents the online-or production-trees. Either of these locations is ultimately where you'll want to restore the missing files. They're dynamic in that you can modify, update or change them during the data restoration process.

In the case of Exchange information stores, these files are constantly changing because users within the organization are constantly sending, modifying and receiving new data in their in-boxes. You load these active files the same way as stored files-through a File Open dialog. You're actually loading a copy, so you can do this on live Exchange files.

I worked with Exchange files and .PST files. If you select Exchange files, you'll see a File Open box and can browse all of the .EDB files accessible from your machine with your credentials. The interface is similar when you're working with .PST files.

Figure 1
[Click on image for larger view.]
Figure 1.The DigiScope console lets you load and access both archived and production e-mail storage.

Age of the Archive
While I certainly don't have years of e-mail archives from thousands of people, I can appreciate the business drivers that make finding specific e-mails critically important. In many cases, it's a necessity to comply with regulatory requirements. This makes it more than simply a matter of finding past e-mails: It's e-discovery, or the process of mining an e-mail database for relevant e-mails to satisfy a regulatory need and avoid legal entanglement.

For e-discovery, DigiScope provides a sophisticated search and filtering interface. You can look for files on a specific topic, from a specific time period, or containing the same word or phrase. Anyone who has spent days or weeks searching through years of e-mail archives for e-mails on a specific topic will appreciate this feature.

As you're searching stores and archives, you can open a reading pane to preview individual mail items to ensure they fit the search criteria. If you're searching for one specific e-mail message, the reading pane also helps identify the exact text to confirm the identification of that message. You can look at e-mails in either the offline tree or production tree, depending on your search criteria. Additionally, you can also easily open and browse e-mail attachments.

Info

You can also save searches so you can re-run them periodically as new data stores become available, or when you want to use an existing search as a starting point for a new one. It's also easy to build queries and filter files based on those queries. While my database wasn't nearly representative of the type you would find in a large organization, search and retrieval performance seemed to be very good.

DigiScope does a single job and it does it well. It doesn't save the world, or do your entire job. It's an elegant solution to an annoying but not potentially disastrous problem-that of misplaced or deleted e-mail from the standpoint of the user.

This need takes on added importance in organizations with legal or regulatory requirements. These types of companies have to archive and produce relevant e-mails upon request. In finance, government or health care, for example, DigiScope may well be a necessity, not an option.

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