AEC Magazine January / February 2022

Page 52

Next generation email management While the digitisation of the design and construction market moves ever onwards, the explosion of projectrelated documents projects are a considerable headache. We talked with industry veteran Alec Milton about his new venture, CloudFiler

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ong time readers of AEC Magazine will know Alec Milton, who managed Oasys, the software development arm of Arup, in the 1990s and 2000s. While there, Milton recognised the considerable problems the AEC industry faced with aligning and storing project related emails, along with traditional project documentation. Columbus and then Mail Manager were developed and these low-cost, easy to use products became global players in the AEC space. Milton left Oasys to join Excitech, where he developed the popular Excitech DOCs and Excitech Mail. As Symetri acquired Excitech, Milton span himself out to carry on what has clearly been the development of a lifetime. This has lead to a ‘next generation’ email management software called CloudFiler.

problems. Quality Assurance was the big issue at the time and we wanted to treat email with the same care as other documents by filing messages to the file system alongside those documents. We also realised that when people were away from the office, they would not be able to file or search, so the tool caches filing requests and has its own indexing / search tool too. Working practices have since changed, expanding customers’ requirements, behaviours and expectations. They not only expect to use phones, tablets, browsers, Macs etc. — because easy access to the internet has made this the norm — they also find themselves required to file content into places other than their company

AEC Magazine: What makes CloudFiler special? Alec Milton: The management of email remains an important nut for every business to crack. Whilst vendors of collaboration tools would like all customers to use their systems for everything, this is just a pipe dream. Customers can’t force all of the businesses they work with to cease sending them email. Email is a common denominator which remains the dominant method of communication in business. This is what made Mail Manager and Excitech Mail popular, as they allow you to file messages to defined locations and easily find them later. AEC Magazine: So how is your new system different or better than what people are used to? Alec Milton: The first system I worked on was designed to address the then-current 52

January / February 2022

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file systems; such as SharePoint, Autodesk Construction Cloud, CRM, etc. This has long been a well understood problem, but we didn’t have a solution. Let me give you some examples. Most tools work on the premise that a PC files the messages and then indexes them to provide the search capability. Indexing creates problems, as it can swamp both the network and the local PC, such as when new staff join, a machine is rebuilt/ replaced, or there are software updates that require a re-index. If you are on a slow link this can take days and consume a good chunk of disk space too. This becomes a bigger problem

when filing to external services, as the indexing can be perceived as a denial of service attack causing the service to either prevent access or throttle it. In today’s world, some staff don’t even have a PC as most of their work can be done on a tablet or phone. Previous systems that I worked on learnt the user’s filing behaviours and would suggest where to file new messages, but this ‘intelligence’ is held locally to the device, so if you get a new machine or rebuild it, you lose that data and you’re back at square one. Similarly, each device learns in isolation so the suggestions on one device won’t be the same as those on another. Ideally you want to be able to file from any device (PC, Mac, phone, tablet, browser) and for the management of suggestions to be central so that the experience is the same across all devices and you can never lose it. When you file from one device you also want to be able to search for and find that message via any of your other devices too. You not only need the software to run on all devices, you also need a single central index which is always up-to-date. Licensing can be a frustration to customers if it constrains them and they are not in control, so we designed our licensing so that a single licence allows a user to have as many devices as they need and their management are able to see what they own, who is using each licence and can move the licences between staff themselves. Another key area is security. It’s all too easy to believe that things are secure but later find that staff are reading confidential emails. CloudFiler has rolebased security with PCI compliant banking level encryption both in transit and at rest. For example, you can decide that only those whose role is ‘Partner’ can file into or search the company’s business-related locations and the Managing Director can have filing locations that only he/she can access. You can even select a location and ask the system to show you who has what level of access to it. Centralisation provides consistency, reliability and easy management. For example when new staff join a business, adding them to the environment with other email management tools can be quite a task. Ideally you want to be able to both add staff easily and control their configuration remotely so that it matches the business’s preferences. Lastly, if your business is geographically dispersed, you want staff to have the same www.AECmag.com

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