Email As a Service Not As Easy As It Sounds

When the government tried to implement email as a service, it had to balance security concerns with free trade policies that sparked a contentious discussion about where in the world email servers could be located. Your firm's EaaS plans won't be as complex, but you can still learn from the government's efforts.

By Jason Bloomberg
Wed, October 03, 2012

CIO — It seems that executives in every organization these days feel the pressure to move to the cloud. The United States government is no exception, as the administration's Cloud First policy is driving federal agencies to move essential systems to the cloud—and fast.

News: Cloud Computing Gains in Federal Government

In response, agency CIOs have scrambled to identify the low-hanging fruit: applications or systems that would be relatively straightforward to migrate. Topping the list are public-facing Web sites, customer relationship management, content and document management and email.

As it turns out, running corporate email in the cloud—email-as-a-service, or EaaS—is on everybody's low-hanging fruit list. After all, there are many public EaaS offerings that already host thousands of organizations and millions of users. Email standards and technology are quite mature, and it's unlikely that your existing on-premises email system responsible for moving emails around today is so decrepit that migrating off of it is a Herculean task. Plus, of course, email is so easy to use that moving to a new system shouldn't involve onerous change management and training.

Or so the reasoning goes. Look closely at your existing on-premises corporate email system, though, and you'll identify a number of gotchas that complicate the move to EaaS.

  • Your email system is probably tightly integrated with your identity and access management system, especially if your employees enjoy single sign-on capabilities that include their email accounts.
  • Your email is likely connected to your corporate calendar, address book and other collaboration technologies.
  • Don't forget that your employees like to check their email on their work computer, their home computer and their smartphone.

Any EaaS migration strategy must take into account all of these issues.

Trade Agreements, Politics Complicate Government EaaS Efforts

The federal government has all these problems and more—not only because if its sheer scale but also because of the diversity of its needs and the regulated nature of its operations. For example, security is obviously a paramount concern, and security requirements vary depending on whether it's a civilian, law enforcement, military or intelligence agency. At the same time, the government's free-trade policies prevent it from restricting contracts to U.S.-based providers unless there is an overarching reason to do so.

Analysis: Email in Security Hot Seat With Rise of Cloud, BYOD

The General Services Administration (GSA) found these competing priorities in a request for quotation it issued in May 2011. This RFQ anticipated the awarding of a blanket purchase agreement for EaaS that would enable many agencies and departments across the government to purchase email from a preapproved list of EaaS vendors—in the process saving the government millions of dollars and satisfying an essential Cloud First mandate.

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