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Cloud E-Mail Considerations

One of the most popular apps to move to the cloud is e-mail. Mail is a hassle to administer and doesn't really offer competitive value. Gmail, Yahoo! mail and even Hotmail long ago proved you can do decent e-mail online, albeit not enterprise-class.

Cloud providers now offer true enterprise-worthy mail tools, so the questions arise: Should you move and how do you do it?

Greg Shapiro from Sendmail ought to know and he gives the whys and wherefores in an article for Enterprise Systems Journal.

Casual e-mail shops have a pretty easy mail migration. But some do a lot of newsletters, mailings and such -- you know, bulk mail (hopefully it's not all spam). This is a high level of activity that requires a special (special as in good!) kind of provider.

Then there is e-mail that has nothing to do with human communication. "Machine-to-machine communications are the e-mail messages sent between systems and apps without any human intervention. Consider wire transfer requests: These e-mails are received by the financial institution's messaging system but contain special coding that tells the system to bypass mail filtering en route to the backend ERP system, which handles the validation, verification, and releasing of funds over the wire. Failure to complete the transaction within the agreed upon time between banks carries a significant financial penalty. Therefore, it's critical that these wire messages aren't delayed by spam filters or humans. Does it make sense to have all of this traffic between the cloud and the internal infrastructure for two applications that might be down the hall from each other?" Shapiro asks.

There's also machine-to-human communication from devices such as printers, copiers, scanners, and alarm systems. "The number of these types of applications found in the enterprise can be staggering, and the complexity and effort to migrate them to the cloud may not provide sufficient payback," Shapiro argues.

You can actually move part of your mail infrastructure. "The typical enterprise messaging infrastructure has three layers -- the gateway layer, the groupware layer, and the e-mail backbone layer. The gateway layer, which handles inbound malware filtering, simple routing and security, is the easiest to migrate and will deliver solid ROI. The groupware layer (Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Notes, etc.) can be technically more challenging to migrate but it also provides the greatest ROI -- some enterprises dedicate up to 95 percent of their IT messaging support team to manage this layer," Shapiro says. "The real complexity comes in trying to move the third e-mail backbone/middleware layer, where the directory-driven policy and security enforcement, intelligent routing, and core infrastructure for machines and applications that generate e-mail reside. Can this layer be moved the cloud? Virtually all enterprise IT managers I know who thought they could migrate this layer to the cloud quickly discovered there's little to gain by doing so. Very few IT messaging support resources are used to manage this layer, and IT managers are discovering the high cost of re-configuring or re-coding the departmental, e-mail-generating applications to interface with the cloud."

Posted by Doug Barney on 01/08/2013 at 12:47 PM


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