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The Hype of Cloud Based Email

September 25, 2013 No Comments

Featured article By Kari Woolf, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Novell

Email is mission-critical to any organization.  Whether you choose to host email on an on-premise server or outsource to a cloud-based vendor, employees cannot function without this form of communication.  There has been a lot of excitement over the supposedly cost-effective cloud-based options.  However, as new stories surface about maintenance and downtime issues, government surveillance and hidden costs, cloud-based email systems are no longer placed on a pedestal.

Looking at the alternative, some on-premise systems are moving away from their stagnant reputation and offering users a cloud-like experience.  They allow workers to access email and share documents from simple, web-based or mobile interfaces, while keeping the system itself safe inside the firewall.  We know there is a place for both the cloud and on-premise – but the question is; where does each fit best?

For small organizations who need a simple system, cloud email can make sense.  However, tack on premium add-ons such as message archiving or mobile support, and you are looking at some hefty payments.  The return on investment may take four or five years to pay off.

For larger companies or those in a highly regulated industry, the cloud does not make regulatory or monetary sense.  While there has been a lot of hype around the low cost of entry, many organizations find a different story in the fine print. What began as a sweetheart deal can quickly turn into stair-step pricing, in which annual rate increases negate the initial cost savings.

Gartner expects only about 10 percent cloud adoption in the enterprise by 2015.  This may surprise some, but consider the intricacies of migrating thousands of employees’ email from on-premise to the cloud.  Training, downtime, loss of productivity; there are a number of reasons that organizations choose to remain on-premise and simply update their systems.

Another rising concern involves the new HIPAA regulation, which now holds “business associates” responsible for patient data in the same way that healthcare organizations, themselves, are held responsible.  “Business associate” can refer to any entity that stores or transfers patient data.

If you are using a cloud-based system, the onus is on you to negotiate a “Business Associate” agreement with your provider, considering that this new mandate took effect on September 23rd.  At the end of the day, using a cloud-based system means you are not in full control of your data.  This puts organizations at risk for data breaches and non-compliance penalties.  This HIPAA issue is sparking another round in the cloud vs. on-premise debate and causing companies to question when the cloud is right for transferring data, and when they should remain in control.

I challenge IT administrators to do their homework before switching to the cloud.  Surface-level arguments may cast the cloud in an unnaturally favorable light.  But if you’re seriously considering it, here are some possible factors to examine:

  • * Migration Expense: What will it cost us just to get there?
  • * Ongoing (and Often Hidden) Costs: What will be the actual vs. promised expense involved?
  • * Effort-to-Benefit Ratio: What will we gain that we don’t already have?
  • * Productivity Hit: Will our end users’ daily work practices be disrupted? And for how long?
  • * Compliance Posture: How will this move affect our compliance with company policy or external regulations?
  • * Long Term Impact: Where will this put us in five years?

Whether you choose to move to the cloud or recommit to your on-premise email system, making a decision based on the facts will always pay dividends.


Kari Woolf is a Senior Product Marketing Manager and Collaboration Marketing Lead for Novell. She has been with the company for more than 14 years in a variety of marketing and communications capacities. In addition to her high tech marketing experience, she served as an account manager and content director for a creative agency specializing in live events. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Brigham Young University.

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