The Royal Albert Hall is one of the UK’s most famous leisure and entertainment destinations, an iconic building that enjoys worldwide recognition. Since opening in 1871, it has had an unparalleled history of exceptional performances by the world’s leading artists.
Today it hosts over 350 events each year, including performances of classical, jazz, world music, rock and pop, dance, comedy, film premières and award ceremonies. Audiences of well over a million are entertained each year and many millions more around the world enjoy the Royal Albert Hall experience through broadcasts, recordings and new media channels. The Royal Albert Hall is a registered charity and receives no public funding.
As Crispin Gray, Head of Information Systems explains, email is a mission critical tool for the famous concert and entertainment venue. Many of the Royal Albert Hall’s employees work during evenings and weekends. Clients, suppliers, organisers and performers come from all over the world, so email is integral to its operations, as is access to the historical data on its internal systems.
Although the Royal Albert Hall’s previous hosted email service provided anti-virus and anti-spam protection, it was difficult to use and did not offer the level of control that Gray required. He decided to look for a new solution and a reseller introduced him to Mimecast.
“The original plan was simply to replace the Royal Albert Hall ’s existing anti-virus, anti-spam service,” explains Gray “but when we started talking to Mimecast, we discovered that archiving was available as part of the service. Although this was not an initial driver, the archiving feature was a key reason why we chose Mimecast over other suppliers.
Capturing and storing internal, inbound and outbound emails provides a comprehensive back-up and also supports business continuity by allowing us to access our emails in the event of any issue arising with Microsoft Exchange.”
Gray and his team were taken through a seven-step implementation process which was completed over several days with no disruption to users. “Thanks to Mimecast’s excellent technical support, our users were blissfully unaware of the switchover,” recalls Gray.
Gray explains that all of the Royal Albert Hall’s live mail stores – about 100GBof mail – were ingested into the Mimecast grid. “We turned all our mailboxes into PSTs so that Mimecast could ingest everything that was in our Microsoft Exchange system.”
Mimecast’s ability to restore deleted messages quickly and easily is particularly useful. “People regularly ask us to restore emails that they have mislaid or inadvertently deleted,” says Gray.
“Although it was possible to recover emails with our previous technologies, it could take several hours and involved considerable effort as it required a fairly senior member of the information services (IS) team to interrupt their work. Now we have moved to Mimecast, we simply drag the deleted email back from the archive. It takes less than a minute.”
Mimecast’s search and retrieval functionality enables users to locate individual messages. “Previously, if someone needed to retrieve a message, but they didn’t remember exactly when they had sent it, we had to restore their entire mailbox and then help them find the message that they needed. Now, because everything is indexed when it is stored, you simply search for the sender, the time window and a key word and you get results within seconds.”
The availability of a complete searchable archive will also encourage changes in user behaviour. “If people are confident that they can recover emails and attachments, hopefully they will be more willing to delete them from local folders,” explains Gray. “When we roll out the Outlook connector, we will then be able to reduce mailbox size and make our Exchange infrastructure much more efficient.”
Although users have the same interface as they had before the switchover, Mimecast has enabled the ISteam to recover deleted files much more quickly. “User records and Active Directory details are copied to Mimecast two or three times a day and Mimecast engineers are proactive in ensuring that connectors between our systems are working properly. This helps to ensure continuity of service,” says Gray.
Mimecast has definitely improved user satisfaction. “If someone wants to restore a deleted email, they can get it back straight away,” says Gray.
The anti-spam and anti-virus features that Gray was originally looking to replace have significantly improved. “With our previous service, the management interface for releasing emails and changing rules was clunky and complicated. Configuring Mimecast is straightforward and intuitive,” he explains.
Although the Royal Albert Hall’s previous service prevented spam from getting through to end users, messages from invalid email addresses were hitting its internal servers. LDAPaddress validation, which is part of the Mimecast package, blocks all invalid email addresses, preventing tens of thousands of emails from reaching the Royal Albert Hall’s Exchange server every day. Mimecast’s Armed SMTP technology further reduces the number of spam messages that get through.
Another advantage is the ability to create security rules quickly and easily. “For example, with Mimecast’s Data Leak Prevention techniques we can ensure that people cannot inadvertently send credit card details or other confidential information out of the business.”
The enormous reduction in the number of spam emails hitting the Exchange server has significantly reduced the load on the Royal Albert Hall’s email system. Mimecast has enabled the Royal Albert Hall’s IS team to provide a faster, more streamlined service with a complete archive in the cloud and 24/7 support. “Mimecast has made our system more efficient from the inside,” observes Gray.
Gray is so impressed by Mimecast’s user friendliness and superb technical support that he is contemplating using it to replace Outlook Web Access. “When Mimecast’s Outlook interface replicates all the functionality that Outlook Web Access offers, there will be no need for us to run both services” he explains. “This will save costs as we will be running just one system for web access. It will save time as we will have one less box to administer and improve our disaster recovery protection and mitigate risk by backing up Outlook Contacts and Calendars in the cloud.”
Mimecast’s marketing features, which include advertising banners with tracked click throughs on emails is another important item on Gray’s to-do list as they offer the Royal Albert Hall another way to promote its programme of concerts and events but also a way of ensuring consistency on all outbound email and brand reinforcement.
Mimecast has shown Gray and his team that the cloud is the way forward. “Mimecast has given me peace of mind,” he says. “Irrespective of what’s happening with the back-up routine on our Exchange server, all our emails are on the Mimecast service and we can access them quickly and easily.”
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