How-To Guide: Migrating Email To The Cloud

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For businesses that are thinking about moving their IT into the cloud, email is a good place to start

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Options for every business

Comparing outsourced, hosted and SaaS email offerings, there are options to suit every level of commitment to cloud. Perhaps the likes of only Apple or Google could be said to offer the truest cloud-based email, as their mobile and web operating systems enable user access via the browser on any desktop or a choice of mobile devices. The enterprise Google Apps offering packages many of the productivity and communication tools required by the average knowledge worker, decoupling the enterprise from one-size-fits-all collaboration strategies.

The choices can be narrowed down according to security and service levels depending on the sensitivity of the information exchanged and transmitted via email. For instance, the encryption of personal or sensitive data is often mandated by law, as is mandatory email archiving in professions like the law or financial services.

With a mind to security and corporate governance, the other consideration beyond the provision of email services that it pays to scope early are other applications core to running premises-based email. These include disaster recovery, reporting, backup, archiving, spam and virus filtering.

Here the need for most third-party management applications can be eliminated in a SaaS deployment, where as the software vendor or service provider delivers all core level two and three helpdesk duties. Evaluate whether this includes all required services for redundancy and recovery, provides all reporting options, performs all version upgrade functions, and protects its perimeters with its own spam and virus filters.

Making the right choice for your business

Talking to the experts, architects can face bewildering choices about how to move some applications to the cloud. But their decision must consider an organisation’s requirements, evaluation criteria, and architecture principles, according to Richard Watson, research director at Gartner.

“No alternative offers a silver bullet: all require architects to understand application migration from multiple perspectives and criteria, such as IT staff skills, the value of existing investments, and application architecture,” he said.

The analyst advised the migration strategies an organisation could consider, which can be applied to email as the prime target for exploratory cloud migrations:

  • Re-hosting email without making changes to its architecture can provide a fast cloud migration solution, but without the benefits of full dynamic scalability
  • Refactoring email on a cloud provider’s infrastructure reuses existing email investments, but can also present transitive risk and framework lock-in
  • Revising or rebuilding the existing email code base to support legacy modernisation requirements to optimise the application’s ability to use the cloud characteristics of providers’ infrastructure, but can also be time and resource intensive
  • Replacing an existing email application minimises development requirements, however the analyst warned that the disadvantages could include inconsistent data semantics, data access issues and vendor lock-in

Watson advised businesses to consider: “Which cloud platform and migration techniques offer the chance to optimise the application’s contribution to stated and implied business and IT goals? Those business and supporting IT goals should be driving any cloud migration decision — not a rush to experiment with new toys.”

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