It’s easier than ever to abandon your in-house email servers and make the shift to the cloud.
Whether you’re a multinational giant or a sole trader, one of the keys to running a successful business is knowing which tasks are best outsourced to the specialists. There comes a time for most businesses when it’s best to hand over the hassles of running an email server, so you can concentrate on doing what you do best.
It’s easy to set up a free Gmail account as your online inbox, but thankfully there are business-grade options if you’re aiming to look a little more professional. Along with Google Apps and Microsoft’s Office 365, web giant Amazon also wants a slice of the action with WorkMail.
For only a few dollars per user each month, Microsoft, Google and Amazon’s cloud mail services tie together email, calendar and contacts similar to the traditional Outlook desktop app.
These online services aren’t just designed for small businesses, they scale up to handle hundreds or even thousands of staff members.
You don’t need to switch everyone across to a new email address, you can keep using your business’ domain name to maintain a professional front. On the backend you can retire your mail servers and run everything in the cloud, entrusting availability and security to an enterprise-grade data centre. The shift also makes it easier for your staff to access their email from a wide range of devices, whether they’re in the office or out and about. The result can be a serious productivity boost.
Competition is tough in the cloud and Amazon is keen to push security as WorkMail’s strength.
For example, you’ve got the option to create and manage your own encryption keys, making it more difficult for anyone else to read your mail. You can also specify where in the world your data is stored, which is an important compliance issue in some industries concerned about offshore data. Storing your data locally also reduces lag time when working online.
If your business already uses Amazon services then WorkMail might be a good fit because it integrates with Amazon Web Services tools such as Access Management, Key Management and Directory Service (for Microsoft Active Directory support). There are also Mobile Device Management features such as remotely locking and wiping devices should they fall into the wrong hands.
WorkMail also works with Amazon’s WorkDocs cloud storage service, although it’s not as fully featured as the online storage/office suites you get with Google Apps and Office 365. WorkDocs lets you view documents and share them with colleagues, but you won’t find built-in tools for creating and editing Word, Excel and PowerPoint files on the fly – like those offered by Microsoft and Google.
While it’s handy to make your mail servers someone else’s problem, make sure you think carefully about your wider cloud ambitions before committing yourself to an online email service.
David Hancock is the founder and managing director of Geeks2U, a national on-site computer repair and support company.