E-mail is a business tool that may very well be more important to most businesses than phones these days. It is so critical to business operations not only because of the direct communication it provides with customers and internally, but for many companies, it also provides calendaring, task management, and time management tools. With the critical nature of e-mail to business operations, it’s no wonder that e-mail was one of the first technologies to be delivered through “cloud” technologies. Gmail, ymail, and others are all cloud-driven e-mail systems. So how does this translate to value for your business? To see the value cloud-based e-mail provides, it may be a good idea to compare traditional onsite e-mail with its cloud-based counterpart.
Traditional onsite e-mail
For the purpose of this article, let’s assume we have a business that has 35 staff members. The business is considering deploying an e-mail server onsite that is powered by Microsoft Exchange. This is quality solution that many businesses use today and it’s one that I’ve recommended often. If we take this solution and compare it to a similar cloud-based solution, we can see the operational differences between the two…
For any technology, (e-mail included), there are hard costs and soft costs that we bear, and for those costs we receive operational value (oversimplified a bit, but sufficient to derive the comparative value between on-premise e-mail and cloud-based e-mail). As is the case with nearly all cloud solutions, the overall cost of a cloud solution is going to be greater over time than its onsite counterpart. However, there are some definitive and tangible benefits for this greater cost.
Benefits of Cloud-based E-mail
- Administration – there is still some internal administration necessary in a cloud-based environment because internal resources are used to access your e-mail (Internet, desktops, etc.), but the bulk of the administration burden is transferred to the hosting company. This reduces risk in many cases and reduces internal administration costs
- Accessibility – The very nature of cloud solutions require them to be highly accessible.
- Availability – Most cloud solutions, including e-mail, are hosted at a data center, often with a second data center available for failover, which gives you a much higher level of e-mail uptime over an onsite solution. Additionally, most cloud-based e-mail providers will give you an SLA, stating their uptime requirements
- Initial Investment – though nearly all cloud solutions will cost more over time, there upfront cost is far lower than an onsite solution.
There are also drawbacks to cloud-based e-mail, as well:
- Cost – greater cost over time
- Integration – many software programs today interface directly with your e-mail system to capture messages, calendar data, and so forth. Most of these programs won’t be able to integrate with cloud-based e-mail.
- Speed – Almost every program that is hosted remotely (or in the cloud) is going to respond just a little slower than if that program is running onsite.
- Control – whenever you move functionality offsite, you lose some degree of control of that function.
- Backup - The frequency, type, and depth of your e-mail backup is something that needs to be redeveloped when you operate your e-mail from the cloud.
Ultimately, cloud-based e-mail is something that is becoming a better option for businesses, though admittedly, it isn’t for everyone. Yet, there are some undeniable operational advantages that will only grow as time passes. Either way, for many businesses, it’s probably evolved to the point that it is an option worth looking into.