Electric InterConnect: The Electric Connection

You want to connect your LAN-based e-mail systems to the Internet, but you can't afford the cost and management overhead involved in installing and supporting an SMTP gateway. In an attempt to solve that connectivity dilemma, The Electric Mail Co. (Vancouver, British Columbia, www.electric.net) offers Electric InterConnect (EIC), a service that enables businesses to connect e-mail systems such as Microsoft Mail or Lotus cc:Mail to the Internet, using a local dial-up connection.

Running on a Windows NT or Windows 95 machine at the customer site, EIC queues messages and manages the modem or dedicated connection to the Electric Mail Distribution Hub at Electric Mail headquarters in Vancouver. At scheduled intervals, EIC connects with the hub. To maintain security, EIC provides dial-out-only service and requires a client ID and password to authenticate the dedicated session with the hub. EIC sends the messages to the hub using compression and a high-speed link for throughput performance benefits. The service supports MIME and UUencode formats. At the same scheduled time, the hub sends e-mail from the Internet to your LAN post office. Administrators can schedule message delivery as frequently as needed.

EIC also enables companies with multiple locations to link branch-office e-mail systems to create a private e-mail WAN.

"I like the fact that it integrates as a native NT service," says Chris Dengler, manager, information systems, with Loomis Armored Car Service Ltd. (Vancouver, British Columbia). "I can run it on an NT server that is doing other things as well." Loomis uses EIC on Microsoft Mail running on an NT system in a WAN with eight internal downstream post offices to communicate with its customers such as financial institutions. The company bought EIC to replace a similar system that had such limitations as the necessity for a dedicated PC and eight-character address limits.

Another plus, according to Dengler, is that EIC uses a dial-up connection: "It doesn't expose us to the risks of having a true Internet connection, and that security is important in this business."

EIC can provide spam filtering, as well, because all incoming messages are filtered at the Distribution Hub by tools that detect and discard unsolicited commercial bulk e-mail. Electric Mail proactively identifies more than 8,500 currently known spammers. The EIC service also supports the use of aliases, and the use of multiple domain names, mapped to a single post office.

"[Alias mapping] allows us to master the routing," says Loomis' Dengler. "Also, we can alias to an internal mail group," not just to individuals. "If someone sends a message to sales@loomis.com, it can distribute it to the whole group," he says.

Dengler was also pleased that Electric Mail is working on a Microsoft Exchange version to ensure that users can migrate without losing functionality. The company verified that EIC for Exchange is in development.