Preparing the technology fields for a new season of growth SA's agriculture commodities, financial and logistics giant AFGRI moves to cloud-based email archival and management to mitigate risk
Johannesburg - JSE listed agricultural business, AFGRI, implemented Mimecast's Unified Email Management (UEM) to quickly ensure compliance with document retention legislation and reduce the admin burden of spam and malware on its users.
AFGRI is involved in the commodity trading of agricultural products as well as their manufacture and retail. With 40 retail stores, 80 agricultural silos, seven factories and over 1500 staff spread far and wide across South Africa, its IT and communications infrastructure needs to accommodate the diverse needs of end users ranging from head office admin staff to commodity traders negotiating produce sales in the ports of South Africa.
When AFGRI changed its name from OTK, the re-brand brought about the seemingly simple need for a second set of email addresses for the staff. The timing of the name change coincided with the local change in legislation making it mandatory for companies to provision for email archiving and compliance. Almost overnight AFGRI was facing an archiving nightmare with too much mail to deal with, high volumes of spam, and nowhere safe to keep or retrieve emails.
An added business issue was also starting to impact the company with email becoming the de facto standard for concluding commodity deals and trading. Simultaneously, increasing litigation to either defend or argue AFGRI's case where deals had gone awry was raising the issue of proving the distribution or receipt of email documents. In many cases a single email was the sole piece of evidence confirming a multimillion-dollar contract for agricultural commodities bought or sold.
"Our need to use email to conclude deals was placing the company at risk,' says Morne de Klerk, Group IT: Operations and Security Manager of AFGRI. "Nine times out of ten a commodity trader is reliant on email confirmation of a contract.'
"Also, bear in mind that in the commodity trading space, five minutes can make a huge difference to a price. Without a flawless time reference stamp, verification and archiving system for recall, we were constantly on the back foot,' says De Klerk.
In a traditional fragmented on-premise email environment, different systems (such as those used for perimeter security) can act on email independently, in ways that may alter its context or meaning, making the email unusable as evidence.
AFGRI's investigations of a range of products in the market led the company to Mimecast. Mimecast provided AFGRI with a completely holistic email solution without the traditional hardware, software or capital expenses. The unified email management provided by Mimecast immediately saved AFGRI needing to invest in gateways, anti-spam systems, email archives, continuity facilities, email marketing, policy control and virus protection.
"We had a definite opex saving with the implementation of Mimecast specifically in terms of the time taken to prove email distribution and delivery. The knock on effect has meant that we have less issues that land up in litigation, and that's a saving to the company that's almost impossible to quantify but easy to qualify,' says De Klerk.
Using a Software as a Service (SaaS) model, Mimecast stops spam and viruses before they reach the business' network, with a unique system that eliminates content based false positives and the need to manage email quarantine lists. Having this service delivered from the 'cloud', Mimecast has also eradicated the unseen costs associated with downloading and archiving spam messages.
"We did away with the software licensing costs associated with spam and virus protection within the first six months of the implementation, making the partnership even more beneficial to AFGRI. If you add up the reduction in capex and opex costs, we have made significant savings, but most fundamental to us has been the ability to do away with the massive internal costs of managing and supporting email versus the service fee we now pay,' says De Klerk.
"The manual retrieval and the backups we had to restore to vindicate the company in commodity deals were extraordinarily time consuming and represented an enormous loss of revenue that we could not quantify,' says De Klerk. "Now I'm just not worried about email. Another huge benefit for us was the reduction of spam. We had an immediate drop in spam volumes." AFGRI no longer has the requirement for an expensive and highly complex email infrastructure. Just the existing email server is needed no additional hygiene, archival, security or gateway systems are required. The company experienced a reduction in telecommunications costs through more efficient mail delivery techniques and has a complete email archive to ensure business continuity, increased productivity and full compliance with data retention legislation. In addition, AFGRI has guaranteed protection against viruses, spam and email borne malware.
"Business is risky enough. Our email archiving system shouldn't be a liability,' concludes De Klerk.
Mimecast delivers cloud-based email management for Microsoft Exchange, including archiving, continuity and security. By unifying disparate and fragmented email environments into one holistic solution that is always available from the cloud, Mimecast minimizes risk and reduces cost and complexity, while providing total end-to-end control of email. Founded in the United Kingdom in 2003, Mimecast serves approximately 4,000 customers worldwide and has offices in Europe, North America, Africa and the Channel Islands.
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