Question #1: Does Cloudsourcing Email Make Sense?

For SME’s (Small and Medium Enterprises) I would definitely advise against an on-premise (Exchange) mailserver. Not only is there the Capex cost of buying and the Opex cost of hosting the server, keeping Exchange operational requires quite a bit of expertise and patching. In other words, you’ll waste a lot of money on paying your administrator who has to divide his attention between the Exchange server(s) and many other IT tasks. E-mail must be about the most essential IT tool your employees have, so it is not wise to take any risk there.

I’ll focus on the two options I have experience with: a hosted version of Microsoft Exchange or Gmail for Business. Contrary to popular belief, Gmail for Business is quite different from the Gmail that we are all using. Gmail for Business is not datamined by Google, and no ads are displayed. It is also hosted on an infrastructure that offers higher availability and security than the regular Gmail. Costing only $50 per user per year for a 25 GB (!) , Gmail is easily two times less expensive than a hosted Exchange account with far less storage space.

The best argument against outsourcing e-mail to the cloud is also gone: Gmail for Business also comes with enterprise support. And Google also works with partners now, so you can get local support too. We are working together with Romneya for example, a Belgian Google Partner.

Support for mobile devices is pretty good: the blackberry enterprise server is supported very well and Gmail works – of course - fine with Android based mobile devices too. Google’s solution is also far superior when it comes to searching thousands of e-mails. For example, our exchange server still does not get that “Johan De Gelas” and “De Gelas Johan” are the same person. When searching, I am never sure I get all the mails I am looking for.

The only thing where I find our Exchange server to be slightly better is the scheduling events in calendar since the exchange server is integrated with the Active directory server.

Gmail is in my experience highly reliable. Gmail for business offers a 99.9% SLA, and I can’t remember any downtime since we started using it 2 years ago. No on-premise server can come even close, and even the hosted solutions can not offer this degree of availability.

So e-mail in cloud makes a lot of sense. It is much cheaper, easier, offers more storage, is more secure and reliable than any on-premise or hosted server. I am quite skeptical of some cloud services, but I can recommend placing your mailserver in the cloud.

Question #2: Benefits/Disadvantages for Website on Amazon EC2
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  • coda6 - Monday, March 28, 2011 - link

    What type of compliance/audit data is available and how do they auditors access? Reply
  • Philippe Creytens - Monday, March 28, 2011 - link

    Coda6,

    Our company was mentioned in the article and I picked up the article via Google Alerts. We have a couple of Google Alerts running for key words like our company name Romneya and/or competitors. So far the introduction...

    I don't exactly understand your question, but there are two topics I would like to point out: Google Apps for Business, as it is called now, is FISMA certified (US Gov) and SAS70 type II. There is more info on http://www.google.com/a/.

    Also do a quick google for the Google Apps Security Whitepaper. It explains how Google deals w/ security.

    If you mean internal auditing, there is the Google Apps Audit API. It allows Google Apps administrators to audit a user's email, email drafts, and archived chats. This API can be used only for lawful purposes in accordance with the Customer Agreement.

    In the Google Marketplace you can find 3rd party applications (based on the API).

    --Philippe
    Reply
  • Ed051042 - Monday, March 28, 2011 - link

    This is not very well written, certainly when compared to other AnandTech articles.

    You state: "E-mail must be about the most essential IT tool your employees have, so it is not wise to take any risk there." So, there's zero risk in using cloud email? Thirty seconds of research would argue otherwise.
    Reply
  • bigboxes - Monday, March 28, 2011 - link

    I was thinking the same thing. Just last week Google announced that many had lost access to their e-mail accounts. Google downplayed it, but it just goes to show what could happen when you put your data in someone else's hands. Reply
  • igf1 - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Right, not only catastrophic failure as an outstanding risk, but the obvious security concerns that you might have. So, regarding a company which wont event disclose their layout, whom you have no control over internal policy, who could go out of business in a days notice and sell their severs + your data to question marks and I conclude, that hes right, I'm not leaving it to chance. Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    I have done 30.000 seconds of research or more. I have seen tens of on premise exchange servers. None of them come close to the availability of Gmail for businesses. Many of them reboot frequently (initiated by the sysadmin), get in trouble after patches or electrical outages and so on. Reply
  • KentState - Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - link

    You must have seen some pretty bad implementations. In 15 years of IT experience, I've only seen a single outage of Exchange and that in 2001 due to a virus. Secondly, the time it takes to administrate Exchange is exaggerated. Reply
  • BF04 - Monday, March 28, 2011 - link

    You praise Google for their business e-mail. However you do not discuss details about it and or any other competition. What about MS cloud services? What about the risk factor, management of employee's email?

    This reads like an ad for Google.
    Reply
  • Philippe Creytens - Monday, March 28, 2011 - link

    BF04

    There are 3 (large) companies actively promoting 'the cloud' for mail/calendaring: Google (Apps), Microsoft (BPOS/Office365) and IBM/Lotus.

    Which cloud offering is 'better'? It depends.

    We see companies using (the more expensive) MS offering to avoid IT management and CAPEX/OPEX issues. Impact for the end user? Hardly any. He connects to a server for mail/calendar w/ the tools he/she has been using (Outlook/Office).

    Other companies decide to move to Google because of its mainly-browser strategy, continuous updates and device independency (iPad, Android, Mac, Linux).
    Impact to the end user? Bigger... at least for the initial couple of weeks as people don't like change.
    Companies that need to share/collaborate beyond 'the firewall' would more likely go for Apps.

    Irrelevant of the choice, in most cases companies move 'commodity IT' to the cloud because now many companies spend 80% of their IT budgets on 'keeping the lights on'. Not on innovation or drive growth.
    http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=497088
    Reply
  • HMTK - Monday, March 28, 2011 - link

    I want to add my 0.02 € to the criticism. The article isn't well written (actually far inferior to your other articles) and it nearly ignores the fact that Google Mail doesn't integrate with AD which is a huge drawback for many companies. It also doesn't take into account that bandwith still is expensive and not guaranteed unless you're willing to pay through the nose. And I think I'm not the only one who isn't keen on putting the company's data in some external cloud where you're never really certain who can access that data. Sure, company X may claim that your data is safe but this is a matter of trust and I'm too cynical I guess. Reply

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