Many businesses are moving to cloud-based services, especially for email. Here are some of the mistakes we’ve seen, and how you can avoid them.
1. Hosting Email Yourself (in-house)
Properly maintaining an email server, like maintaining any piece of critical IT infrastructure, is not a simple task. Too many companies choose to run their own internal email server because it’s “cheaper” than outsourcing. Nothing could be further from the truth! There is more to maintaining a mail server than just turning it on and forgetting it. Servers need frequent regular attention, often on a daily, if not more frequent basis. They need to patched, upgraded, backed up, and monitored to make sure they are up, stable, and secure. On several occasions we have come across client systems which have been compromised, in one form or another, for months, and nobody knew! If you choose to host your email in house, be sure that your IT staff (or outsourced providers) are doing regular, frequent maintenance on your mail servers.
2. Using Your ISP for Email
Most ISPs don’t want to host your email. They want to be in the business of providing Internet access. Email came along because users demanded it, and many ISPs added this feature in as an afterthought. Your ISP’s mail server is often overloaded, slow, and will have prohibitively low storage and attachment limits.
In 2008, Charter Communications (accidentally) deleted 14,000 users’ mailboxes with no option to restore any of the deleted mail. Does that sounds like a company that takes email seriously?
Also, many ISPs will not host your domain, example.com, and force you to use their domain name in your email address, so instead of you being able to send email as firstname.lastname@example.org, it has to be something like yourcompany@yourISP.com, which looks very unprofessional and fly-by-night. Nothing screams “unprofessional” like an email address with @aol.com, @gmail.com, or @comcast.net in it for your business.
Finally, if your ISP gets acquired or goes out of business, or you change your ISP, your email address need to change, and you are almost certain to lose emails because people will have an old email address for you in their address book.
3. Falling for the Promise of “24x7x365 Support”
Large email providers love to tell you about their 24x7x365 support. What they don’t tell you is that, while you may actually get to speak to a human to request support, the real engineers and technicians who do the hard work to get problems fixed work a 9-5 schedule, so if you do have a problem after hours, you may end up waiting until the next morning anyway! Having a relationship with a trusted provider is much more valuable than playing the game of 24×7 roulette.
4. Not understanding Your SLA (Service Level Agreement)
Does your email provider offer you a 99.9999% uptime guarantee? What happens when they go down for a few hours? Do they pay you back? No. SLAs vary from vendor to vendor, so be sure to understand what yours promises, what you will get when they go down, and what you won’t. What you will get is a portion of your bill cut, depending on the SLA, but you’ll have to apply to your provider’s billing department and request this credit.
5. Choosing the Bells and Whistles (you’ll never use)
Many hosted email providers will boast features are overkill for small businesses. Most small businesses do not need to be compliant with HIPAA, PCI, and SOX, but many email providers will boast their compliance packages and try to sell you on them. Granted, most organizations we work with could benefit from a lot of additional features that never occurred to them. Just because you don’t have a feature now doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from them, but don’t be sold on the promise of something without making sure it is really a benefit, not just an extra monthly charge on your account.
6. Looking at price first, features and benefits second (or never)
Price matters, but meeting your needs matters more. Yes, you could choose to host your email for free with your ISP, but it’s worth a few dollars per month to have your own domain name, larger message attachment sizes, collaboration and other features that you will actually use. Before making a decision, make sure that you are comparing identical or at least very similar features, and then come down to price, but not before.