Product Review: Stampede’s AutoZip Eases E-Mail Attachment Woes
September 28, 2004 Joe Hertvik
E-mail attachments are a headache for IBM Lotus Domino administrators. Larger and ever-expanding e-mail attachments increase backup time, consume Domino server disk space, and affect server performance, increase mailbox administrative costs, and slow down network transmission speeds. No matter how you view it, servicing large e-mail attachments is costly, in terms of network administration and performance.
To ease these woes, Stampede Technologies offers TurboGold AutoZip. AutoZip is Stampede’s Lotus-based client and server software for the automatic ZIP file compression of large Domino e-mail file attachments. By reducing Domino attachment storage space in a mailbox, AutoZip helps your network efficiently transfer e-mail among users. It also helps users to quickly retrieve large attachments from mail boxes, reducing bandwidth use in the process.
HOW IT WORKS
AutoZip uses a compression technology that transforms e-mail attachments into ZIP files. Compression can be performed on the server for all attachments in a Domino database or be performed inside a Notes client as users attach files to outgoing e-mails. Server compression is performed through the AutoZip Server Utility, while Notes client compression is performed with AutoZip’s client software.
E-mail attachments are converted and stored in the industry-standard ZIP file format (with an attachment extension of “.tg.zip”), which can easily be read by ZIP file compression utilities, such as PKZip or WinZip. If a zipped e-mail attachment is sent to a Notes user who has the AutoZip client installed, AutoZip automatically translates the attachment back to its original format when it is opened. And the nice thing is that both the compression and the decompression of e-mail attachments are performed transparently, without the user making any decisions or clicking any buttons.
According to Stampede, attachment compression savings of 85 percent or more is possible. Benchmark compression statistics are available on Stampede’s Web site.
TURBOGOLD AUTOZIP CLIENT FEATURES
The AutoZip client runs on Windows 9x/ME, Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000, and Windows XP machines. It requires 2.5 Megabytes of disk space, and it is compatible with Lotus Notes clients 4.6.2 and later. If you are going to use AutoZip’s caching capability, the client cache can be configured up to 1.0 Gigabyte and higher.
Stampede offers two clients to meet different network needs: the Ultra-Low Footprint client and the Full Image installation, which includes an optional user interface. Installation is relatively simple, and installs can be customized with an “answer.ini” text answer file.
AutoZip compression settings for the Ultra-Low Footprint are set by the administrator and distributed with the installation.
In the Full Image client, AutoZip client compression is enabled by using the TurboGold AutoZip Gearshift program, which is accessed through an icon on the Windows taskbar. The Gearshift screen has two buttons, labeled “Turn It On” and “Turn It Off,” which enable and disable AutoZip compression inside the Notes client. For fun, the gearshift graphic on this screen is always shifted toward the client’s currently active Turn It On/Turn It Off setting.
The Gearshift program also contains an AutoZip and cache configuration option that allows you to set up a database cache for opened attachments, so that the server does not have to download an attachment twice, if the attachment has recently been opened. You can also configure your AutoZip settings so that the client will either automatically zip all mail attachments, only zip attachments that will be delivered inside the internal network, or only zip attachments intended for specific e-mail addresses. In addition, AutoZip is automatically configured to bypass ZIP file compression for stream file data, such as .exe, jpg, and mp3 files, which would be damaged by compression.
When compression is enabled and the user adds an attachment to a new e-mail inside the Lotus Notes client, AutoZip displays a checkbox called “Compress on the Lotus Create Attachment.” When the box is checked, the attachment will be compressed as a “.tg.zip” file. The user can bypass automatic compression by unselecting the Compress checkbox, in which case the attachment will be added to the e-mail as an uncompressed file. This enables users to send both compressed and uncompressed attachments in their e-mails. The check box is enabled by default for every single attachment a user adds to an e-mail.
TURBOGOLD AUTOZIP SERVER UTILITY
The AutoZip Server Utility supports Domino Versions 6.x, as well as previous Domino releases back to 4.6.2. It runs on Microsoft Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000, and Windows 2003 with Service Pack 3 or later installed. The Server Utility requires five megabytes of disk space, it runs as a Domino add-in task, and it supports multiple Domino partitions.
To enable compression, database owners and Administrators can set a tgAutoZip role in their database’s Access Control List. This role tells the Server Utility whether to convert e-mail attachments in that database into ZIP files. The utility also contains an Index Enabler that allows administrators to tell the Lotus Notes Indexer task to include compressed files in a full text index file. In addition, the utility offers Multiple Processing Scales to enable many concurrent instances of the task to run on a Domino server, so that the program can take advantage of enterprise servers with multiple CPUs. (Please note that the AutoZip Server Utility was not tested for this review.)
TurboGold AutoZip can be set up for massive deployment by editing a text-based answer .ini file that can be distributed with a custom image installation. The AutoZip client can be used with Domino servers that are hosted on most Domino platforms, and the AutoZip Server Utility runs on several different platforms, including IBM’s iSeries and pSeries boxes.
Pricing for TurboGold AutoZip is based on the number of users on your server. Volume discounts and site licensing are available. For pricing details, call Stampede at 800-763-3423, or call (937) 291-5035 from outside of the United States.
TurboGold AutoZip is a valuable product for reducing the clutter that Domino e-mail attachments can produce. Its most valuable service lies in the overall effect the software provides for your network. Using attachment compression produces a number of positive network benefits, including:
TurboGold AutoZip is a valuable addition to any Domino shop interested in improving server and network performance. Stampede has fashioned a good product that meets these needs, and it is stable and easy to use.