Altour is one of the largest travel companies in the United States, and also serves clients through offices in London and Paris. One of the most sophisticated and savvy leaders in the travel world, Altour has earned its reputation by pioneering cutting-edge technology and delivering the highest level of personal attention.
Email is crucial to the company’s operations – not only is it a primary communications vehicle for travel agents and other staff, it is also deeply embedded in many automated facets of the business such as reservation confirmations. According to Manny Amare, IT Director for Altour, an email outage would be devastating to the firm’s 1000 employees and its customers. By 2008, much of his team’s time was spent shoring up Altour’s email infrastructure in order to avoid an outage.
Amare was also concerned about archiving. At the time, the company’s practice was to back up its Exchange server on a weekly basis. But the process required a large amount of disk space and was time consuming – Amare estimates that Altour’s network administrator spent about 25 percent of his time each week on email archiving issues. And once archived, email was difficult to retrieve.
Another issue was overall email administration. Altour’s 14-person IT team was split between New York and Los Angeles, and supported users in nearly 70 other locations around the world – meaning most offices had no local IT staff. Troubleshooting archiving and continuity issues remotely was challenging and time consuming.
Eventually, the time came when Amare had to decide between buying another server to store archived email, or take the opportunity to make a change. He discussed the matter with Altour’s CIO, Dale Bundy, who suggested that Amare look at Mimecast.
Mimecast provides the only end-to-end solution for unified email management in the cloud – a fully SaaS-based solution that covers archiving, discovery, business continuity, security and policy management. Approximately 2,500 companies around the world have replaced multiple, on-premise point solutions with Mimecast subscriptions in order to significantly reduce the risk, complexity and overall cost of email management.
Amare invited Mimecast in for a demonstration and was impressed by what he saw. Mimecast would cover not only Altour’s archiving and business continuity needs, but also replace its aging anti-spam/anti-virus appliance – which had provided adequate, but not outstanding, coverage and was due for replacement or upgrade shortly. That savings, coupled with avoiding the purchase and maintenance on an additional server, helped Amare make the business case for investing in Mimecast. It also helped that Mimecast was a service rather than a capital investment, says Amare.
“We liked Mimecast’s cloud service model,” says Amare. “We’re a travel company – we didn’t want to be in the messaging business. I liked the idea of outsourcing it to experts so we could focus on our core business.”
Amare and his team also liked Mimecast’s Outlook interface, which users access if their main email is down.
“The user experience is great,” he says. “If email goes down, instead of going into their regular Outlook inbox, they click on a Mimecast folder on their Outlook menu. All their email is there, and it looks just like Outlook so it’s easy for users to navigate. It was a huge advantage for Mimecast in our evaluation.”
Mimecast’s spam coverage was also excellent, says Amare, primarily because it blocks spam before it enters the network. “Our previous appliance couldn’t detect spam until it was already on the network, and that had a huge impact on our overall email volume,” he adds. “Blocking it before it enters the network is definitely better.”
Finally, the archiving features were great, and email retrieval was easy. Altour was sold. In September 2008, Amare oversaw the implementation of Mimecast to all of Altour’s 500 users across 70 locations in the US, which, despite its complexity, he describes as “excellent.”
“Our email setup is not like that of most companies,” he explains. “Altour has done a lot of acquisitions. We have a complicated infrastructure, with five different email services and a lot of different domains. There are many legacy systems, cross domains and forwarding servers. This was not a straightforward implementation, yet Mimecast was able to accommodate all of our idiosyncrasies. Everything went smoothly, and the support we received from Mimecast was outstanding.”
Though they fortunately have not had a company-wide email outage since rolling out Mimecast, Amare says that several times a particular user or office has lost email connectivity. In each case, users were able to immediately go to their Mimecast folders with no loss of productivity – and no impact on customers.
Amare also reports that Mimecast has significantly reduced the amount of spam in Altour email. “Unlike our previous anti-spam appliance, Mimecast blocks spam from entering the network. That alone has reduced our overall email volume by about 50 percent.” Since moving to Mimecast, the average quarterly volume of email that gets through to Altour users is approximately 360,000, while the average quarterly volume of spam that’s blocked from entering the network is over 1,000,000.
Best of all, Altour’s email infrastructure has been greatly simplified. Archiving is automated, and retrieval can be performed in a matter of seconds using Mimecast’s web interface. The firm was able to avoid spending more than $75,000 on additional backup hardware, and the time and resources required to support it.
Altour recently increased its size by 50 percent when it acquired another travel firm, bringing its total employee count to nearly 1,500. Amare’s team is currently working on rolling out Mimecast to all those additional users.
“We’re very happy with our decision to go with Mimecast,” Amare concludes. “It’s had a major impact on the quality of our email services, and on the efficiency and effectiveness of our IT team.”