Get your emails in the cloud

Are your business email still not in the cloud?

You could be spending much more than you have to! A cloud based, SaaS email solution, such as Google Apps, is often a much cheaper option and is suited to any size organisation.

Often unknowingly a significant number of businesses, of any size, run their email systems off their own or dedicated hosting environment – both at a high cost. The environment typically runs the businesses emails and on occasion their user accounts, network permissions and file sharing, and sometimes even their websites all off the one server. What usually happens then as the business grows is these services start to be used more heavily. Support costs slowly but surely increase as the infrastructure ages and becomes more unstable over time. Even with proper software and hardware upgrades completed.

Many tiny businesses also still use emails from their ISPjoe.KitchenBuilder@bigpond.com may have been fine in the 90′s but not anymore! Think of what happens if you had to change your ISP provider? Gone is your email address. This creates the feeling for many of being ‘locked in’.

Luckily it doesn’t have to be this way.

So what other options do I have?

There’s a lot of interest around the cloud, but many businesses struggle to understand how to include it as part of their strategy. Reality is that your email service is a really good place to start. Emails are increasingly expensive, time intensive and have become one of the most mission critical applications in your business. But there’s no longer any need to keep them running inside your firewall and on your own server.

Costs for SaaS in cloud vs hosted environment.Costs compared
3-years cost projection for a service based (green) solution vs hosted amortised without interest (blue) or with upfront capital expenditure (red). Download

Most small businesses don’t have the capabilities or the know-how to manage their own servers. However, that’s the route many go down scared off by the costs in managed hosting (& rightly so). Truth is, self managed or managed hosting options are not viable alternatives for small businesses. If you a run a business you know you need to focus on your own best value add. Everything else is a distraction – and you need to limit these distractions so they don’t take away from your core focus. By utilising the cloud a business doesn’t have the stress of managing their own servers and don’t face the high costs of managed hosting.

We see many SMB‘s trying to make a move to the cloud after tallying up the costs of a hosted solution. One of those clients, Kirana, noticed that the cost were growing rapidly as their systems were becoming more and more unstable due largely to their business growth. Their needs were not uncommon:

  • a stable and proven platform able to scale up and down with with their business
  • a web-connected infrastructure ready for access by their interstate offices
  • a full-featured web interface and mobile email push for users on the road with clients

After discussions about the current and future needs of their business, Kirana decided a cloud based system would best cater for them. However, like many others, they were unsure of how to actually get there.

The business case for migrating your emails to the cloud

Before jumping on the steps to complete this migration, let’s look at the financials. A growing part of many organisations IT budget (and resources) is spent on the maintenance of systems, emails and others. The costs associated with an on premises email solution can include:

  • Hardware with the cost of a single server easily counted in thousands
  • Software licenses more commonly for Microsoft’s Windows and Active Directory/Exchange
  • Additional software such as anti-virus and spam filters
  • Staff because servers don’t set themselve up and don’t generally fix themselves
  • Storage costs required as the size and number of inbox increases
  • Backup solution unless you’re happy for email to disappear
  • Disaster Recovery to ensure emails are available 24/7
  • Mobile delivery including iPhone and Android sync ability

The overall costs of a cloud based service includes all of the above for a flat “pay as you go” monthly fee or subscription pricing models. Regardless of the size, or the growth of a business, savings are practically instant.

The cost isn’t the only benefit, however. The other benefits of a cloud based email solution include:

  • No need to upgrade hardware or software
  • Allows you and/or your IT staff to focus on your value add, not managing email.
  • Allows for better budget planning by turning your variable costs into fixed ones.
  • Support for mobile devices including iPhone and Android.

This aligned closely with Kirana’s requirements for an email system – not only would the move mean cost savings, but it would also lead to productivity increases. A cloud based system was also capable of handling the growth of their business.

So you want to move, but how?

The steps are fairly straight forward and become even simpler for startups, or business not migrating years of emails archived. The following list walks you through the details.

  1. Choose a cloud based email provider as nowadays there are many out there for you to pick from. Based on our client, Kirana’s needs we decided Google Apps would be a good fit, for its features, ease of integration, generous storage and pricing.
  2. Claim your business’ domain name if you have not already, i.e. www.joesitsolutions.com. Create a mail.joessolutions.com sub domain as well.
  3. Setup your email account.  In the case of our client this was Google Apps. As of writing this, Google Apps still offers a trial for up to 5 users free for 30 days. Free trials are great in really assessing whether this option will work for you.
  4. Identify where your current mail is being hosted. Exchange, Lotus Notes, or an ISP provider. Google Apps has steps and processes for each of these solutions. Kirana was using Microsoft’s Exchange Server.
  5. Create a csv file of the accounts you are to migrate to Google Apps.
  6. Using the Google Apps Migration tools you can synchronise the mail, contacts and calendar between your current mail server for all your user from the csv file created in step 5.
  7. Migrate all of your users and their old mail through the Google Apps Migration tool, prior to switching over.
  8. Switch your mail domain, i.e mail.joesitsolutions.com on the day of go live to point to the Google DNS servers. All new mail will be sent to Google Apps from here for joe@joesitsolutions.com.
  9. Migrate the remaining emails from your existing mail server to Google Apps via the Google Apps Migration tool.
  10. Switch your users onto using Google Apps via their internet browsers. You can also use existing mail clients by configuring a POP/IMAP account or install the Google Apps Sync tool for Outlook on the desktop.

In the end the client had stable solution that was able to scale up and down with their business, as needed. The web-connected infrastructure provided by Google Apps allowed their interstate offices to easily access the new email solution. The new solution also allowed easy access for mobile users on the road with clients. Kirana no longer need an Exchange engineer to make changes or upgrades to their server, and they benefited from all of the latest tools and features of Google Apps including, Google Calendar, Google Drive, Google Docs, etc.

Not convinced? Give the topic a quick search. You might come across this fairly thorough cost analysis from tech magazine ZDNet – yikes!

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Written by

A director at EmpireOne, Sydney born Atif has spent his working life immersed in software technologies, methodologies and languages across many industries in roles varying from a software engineer to a solution architect, with a few management and consulting gigs in between. Proud father and avid cricketer to boot!

1 Comment to “Get your emails in the cloud”

  1. Martin Gagné says:

    I agree with you that mailboxes should be in the cloud. However, it would have been great if you could have considered Office 365 in this article. I personally believe that Office 365 offers a lot more functionalities for your money and gives you access to the most well-known and trusted tools: Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Access, Lync, etc.

    Information Week has a lot of good things to say about Office 365 (see http://www.informationweek.com/software/enterprise-applications/google-apps-to-office-365-why-to-switch/240154193).