Issues To Weigh Up Before You Outsource Email

As millions of Gmail users can attest, shifting your email to an external provider can eliminate maintenance issues and save time for IT managers to concentrate on more strategic technologies. However, email contains enormous volumes of important business information, so companies need to carefully assess providers before switching over. What issues should you consider before making the switch?

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Not maintaining effective email archives can create major headaches for a company. The question of whether or not News Limited management asked for potentially incriminating emails to be deleted is one of the key questions in the ongoing “Hackergate” scandal in the UK, for instance.

A recent paper by Gartner analysts Bill Pray and Dan Blum highlights the challenges involved with software-as-a-service (Saas) email solutions, where the entire infrastructure is managed externally:

SaaS email is high-risk because enterprise email inevitably contains at least some, and perhaps a great deal of, sensitive content. Also, any substantial loss of availability or integrity could have a large impact on the business.

Pray and Blum suggest a multi-tiered strategy when considering whether to shift to a SaaS environment. One common strategy is to split users into different tiers, and apply different security principles depending on seniority. So emails sent by the managing director and board members might be managed via an internal solution, while broader staff email is provided externally. While that won’t deliver savings at the same level, it potentially provides a higher level of security.

The other crucial requirement is to undertake a detailed security analysis of the provider and assessing how well that matches current policies. With those elements in place, SaaS can be viable, the Gartner analysts write:

In order to be successful at using SaaS email, enterprises must assess the SaaS email vendor’s controls and compare those findings to the enterprise’s security requirements for email services. Once gaps or concerns are identified, the enterprise can work to mitigate the risk and establish the trust in the vendor necessary to implement SaaS email. By employing segmentation of users (putting some in the cloud and keeping some on-premises) and a hybrid delivery model, enterprises can successfully use SaaS email to cut costs and reduce the resources required for their messaging solutions.

Got any advice to share on migrating to SaaS email? Share it in the comments.

Evolve is a weekly column at Lifehacker looking at trends and technologies IT workers need to know about to stay employed and improve their careers.

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