Documentum, Mobile and IMAP – A standard and open source approach for email archiving and mobile access

TSG has started initial research and development on an alternative approach for email archiving and mobile access with Documentum, based on a client project that utilized Alfresco IMAP.  In prepping for our client briefing next week, we thought we would share our initial thoughts on an IMAP and Documentum approach.

Documentum Email Archiving Thoughts

Clients want the ability to manage emails within their content management repository for many different reasons.

  • Collaboration – Certain emails would be good to share with others as part of a project/case. Typically clients struggle with emails only existing in individual inboxes/sent folders with massive amounts of copies (CC, forward…).  Teams would like to put emails in a central repository that would help others access the email, via browsing or full-text search, that would not ordinarily be available to them.
  • Multiple Email Clients – Given “Bring your own device” (BYOD), email is typically accessed from multiple devices.  Email devices could include some or all options including work computer, home computer, tablet/iPad, and Mobile Phone.  Clients would like to be able to use any of these devices to archive emails and have them consistently available on other devices.
  • Records Management – just like any other corporate document, emails need to have retention policies.  Typically, this is controlled by the mail server team and isn’t managed on an email by email basis, but more on space or an overall “every email gets deleted after X years” approach.
  • Email Inbox space management – In most cases, the system administrator would like to limit the amount of space each user gets for storing emails.  Clients would like the ability to reduce individual space while consistently achieving records management and collaboration goals consistently.  This is particularly important for key individuals who may eventually leave the company or their current role.
  • Email Client and Server search – Users don’t want to lose the ability to find their emails via email application search because they moved them to Documentum.  Users would like the ability to have search both in their email clients and Documentum.  In Documentum, they would like to search on email objects (Sent, Subject, To, From, Body, Full-Text) rather than just as a dm_document.
  • Security – For certain emails, clients want the ability to manage and secure sensitive emails once placed in Documentum.

Documentum Email Archiving Current Approaches

Documentum has the capability to manage emails just like any other document type.  Some product options are:

  • MyDocumentum Client for Outlook (DCO) – DCO is an add-on component for Outlook that works as a client/server application, exposing cabinets and folders from Documentum as additional email stores within DCO.   This approach is limited to just the work computer (does not work on any other devices or email clients).
  • Webtop – Webtop has always allowed “drag and drop” from the desktop to be stored as documents within Webtop.  This includes documents dropped from email clients like Outlook.

Some of the issues with current approaches include:

  • Non-Outlook Clients – More and more clients are deploying web-based solutions for email (Outlook Web Access – OWA), Gmail, or are allowing other methods for accessing to email.
  • Mobile Access – consistent with the “bring your own device” (BYOD) thoughts, many clients are using iPads or mobile phones to access email.
  • Outside the firewall – Email access, either mobile or from home, might be from a device that is outside the firewall.  For simple access to email, clients do not want to put VPN software on any device that a user might choose.  We are seeing clients moving toward having email available outside the firewall.

Other specific email issues in regards to Documentum surround attachments.  While an email might be a document by itself, what should be done with attachments?

  • A document could have one or more attachments.
  • The attachment must be related as a permanent record with the email for records management and archiving.
  • The attachment might need to also live as a separate document managed by version control.

IMAP capabilities

The IMAP solution is a very unique approach for answering some of the issues with current Documentum email approaches.

IMAP stands for Internet Messaging Access Protocol.  IMAP provides a folder structure that can be shared and synched across multiple email clients.  Some unique capabilities of IMAP include:

  • Ability to tie to any email program that supports the IMAP protocol.  This includes Outlook and other PC programs, browser based programs, and the majority of Phone and Tablet apps.
  • IMAP actually replicates/synchronizes the email content from the server to the local device.  Unlike a network drive or other ECM applications where the client needs to be connected to the network, IMAP allows the client to work unconnected from the network and will synch the content when reconnected.

IMAP and Documentum solution

IMAP folders could be created for individuals or projects/cases.  Our approach is to use OpenMigrate to copy or mirror emails from an IMAP folder into a Documentum folder similar to how we cache content from Documentum to a file store for business continuity.

In this manner, email clients could:

  1. Access email from any email client with IMAP capabilities (web, mobile….).
  2. Search emails from Documentum as emails (To, From, Sent date, Subject, Body, Attachment).
  3. Still be able to search emails stored in the IMAP folder from their email client.
  4. From Documentum, have the email launch in an email client to allow for forward/reply.
  5. Be able to access IMAP folders and emails when not connected to VPN or internet.

In regards to management of emails in Documentum

  1. IMAP folders could be configured between Documentum and the email server to provide access when needed and removed from email clients when necessary.  Emails would still be preserved in Documentum as part of a records management policy.
  2. IMAP folders could have specific security to make sure that emails are managed like any other Documentum objects.
  3. Attachments to emails will exist as attachments but could be copied and saved as separate objects in Documentum for version maintenance if necessary.

In developing our solution, we thought of two unique scenarios.  Project/Case and Individual.

IMAP Documentum Project/Case Scenario

In this scenario, a certain project or case would benefit from emails being stored and viewed by other users associated with the case or project.  Examples could include law firm cases, insurance policy or claim, or other internal projects or cases.  Process could involve:

  1. Case is defined and Users are added.  Appropriate Documentum Folder/Security is created with an IMAP folder being added for every person associated with the case.  IMAP folder could potentially be added with “write-only” access (deletes not allowed).
  2. Users on their email clients can drop emails in to the IMAP folder or view others’ emails from the IMAP folder.
  3. Users in Documentum can view and full-text search emails to process the case.  Users can select emails to launch the email for forwarding/replying.
  4.  Once a case is complete/archived, IMAP mapping can be removed, but the case would still be accessible from Documentum and not clog up mail server, while preserving the records and content.  If case became active again, the IMAP folder can be remapped to the user.

IMAP Documentum Individual Inbox Scenario

In this scenario, every user in Documentum would get an IMAP folder to move critical emails to Documentum.  Process could involve:

  1. New Documentum user automatically gets personal IMAP folder.
  2. Items moved to IMAP folder would be copied to Documentum into user’s folder.
  3. User could link items from Documentum into other Documentum folders for Collaboration.
  4. In order to manage space on email server, user could delete items in IMAP folder.  OpenMigrate could be set up to not delete items from Documentum to free up space on the email server but not remove the record from Documentum.

What about Document Access?

One additional benefit of the IMAP approach would be the ability to allow access to Documents stored in Documentum as part of the email client.

Our thoughts focus more on the project scenario above where a project might have other non-email documents located in the same folder as the email.  For that IMAP drive, OpenMigrate would sync from Documentum to the IMAP drive (as emails with attachments) to allow view access to the documents from any email device (including Mobile) that otherwise might not have access to the repository.  Some other thoughts:

  • Email body or subject could describe the document – version number – create date – author
  • Email could contain links to check-out, check-in or other relevant actions that would redirect the user back to the web based interface.
  • OpenMigrate could sync only the published rendition (PDF) or any rendition (Word and PDF) as multiple attachments.

Interestingly, this approach would give clients a quick and easy dropbox type alternative for quickly sharing documents via the email device.

Summary

Based on what we heard at EMC World in regards to EMC’s “New User” and “Cloud”, we think an approach with OpenMigrate can provide answers to some of the email as well as mobile access that clients are looking to add to their Documentum solutions.

If you have thoughts or comments on components that need to be included in the solution, please comment below.

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