Email in the Cloud: Problems and Solutions

  • September 05, 2012
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Cloud Based Email
Cloud computing is changing the ways IT can function for enterprises. It has opened up new opportunities for efficient, cost effective and customized operations for handling enterprise data. Cloud email is one such cloud based service which is attracting businesses and they are looking for cloud email service providers to host their email. But there still are some problem areas which need to be addressed before you migrate email to the cloud.

Cost of cloud email
Cost saving and reducing the administrative workloads are the main reasons behind the move to the cloud. That is not to say that every cheap cloud hosting service is good- but companies need to asses the cost factor carefully to avoid paying for unforeseen circumstances later.
For instance, is the cloud server protected by a firewall? Is this charged extra? And if there is an on-premise archive solution, how much does it cost to manage the e-mail and message archive? Also, how large is that archive expected to be in the next 3-5 years and will the size of the archive impact cost?
Some cloud hosting companies include a number of these protections as part of the ongoing operations for their data center at no additional charge.

Control over your email
Your email data resides on a cloud server located in the providers data center. In that case, who owns the data and who has total control over the data as long as it resides there? If your company email has fixed deletion period for old e-mail, will the provider do this for you? And what if you never want any of the email data deleted? You need the cloud provider’s support in both the scenarios.
Access control can be another problem. Apart from the administrators – who have access to the data – who else can see your email data? Is this access on a need-to-know basis? In case you decide to move to another cloud provider for your email, can you do this easily? Will the cloud company allow the data to be portable without any issues related to access.

Email archives
As the email moves to an off premise cloud, the storage and archiving of the email also becomes the service provider’s responsibility. But not everything in email data is worth saving. Unless the data life cycle is clearly defined, the data storage would drive up the costs of the cloud email. The policy should clearly state what should be saved (for how long) and what should not be saved in the email archive. When old threads need to be deleted, you should have the option to delete the entire data.
How is the archive maintained and indexed? Can you search the archive easily for email conversations by date, time, sender, recipient, or key word?

Availability & uptime
With the cloud, 100% uptime and availability is a must. There could be numerous things that can go wrong and affect the uptime- like DDoS attacks, network failures and physical damage, for example. Does the service provider SLA cover these aspects? You should calculate the costs of email services breakdown by the hour and be able to get a refund for that time in case the cloud servers do go down. The SLA should explicitly specify the clauses relating to availability – understand how the provider tracks the server availability metrics. Negotiate for remuneration should the provider fail to deliver that uptime.

Email policy & security compliance
The email service has to be compliant with corporate-defined policies and those related to external mandates, such as HIPAA, NERC, and PCI. Users have reason to be worried about unauthorized users accessing their personal information via hacking. Does the cloud email provider use two-factor authentication is for login? Is the communication channel between the e-mail client and the mail server encrypted?
Geographical distances also factor into policy decisions. If your company email is housed in a data center somewhere in the US, there could be a policy mismatch. In such cases, we advise you to host your email in a data center in India to keep things simple.

Email encryption
Privacy protection laws require encryption of sensitive data at all times-during data transmission via e-mail, when stored and archived in the data center. Is the cloud provider able to deliver encryption services for e-mail for all those stages?

To address the above issues effectively, it is important that your web hosting provider in India is very reliable and has expertise in offering the latest technology.

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