By Michael C. Pelletier, MBA
Consulting Director

No one ever calls their CIO to tell them, "Hey, my email has been coming to me every day and I'm always able to send messages when I need to."  Email, like the telephone, has become a standard form of communication that most people, especially in the business world, take for granted.  In order to provide users with this "always on" capability, many large organizations have invested in a variety of technologies (clustering, SANs, etc.) that have cost tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars, and continue to invest to keep software and hardware up-to-date.

Most small and mid-sized businesses don't have the time or money to make the types of investments necessary to provide 99.9% or even 99% uptime guarantees to their employees.  Beyond these investments, there are many other challenges faced in regard to archiving, compliance, eDiscovery and storage.  So what can be done?

Two models have emerged to address some of these issues.  Both rely on a hosted or off-premise deployment model, but are distinctly different.

Co-location is an approach that has been around for over a decade.  Simply put, a given server,or set of servers is located in a data center off-site from the business.  This typically addresses issues regarding data connectivity as data centers typically have redundant internet connections.  Further, depending on the pricing model, it may include redundant hardware capabilities. 

While these services are quite beneficial to organizations that need a more secure location with additional fault tolerance capabilities to host their email system, they are typically expensive (when compared to an on-premise deployment) and require an IT staff that can oversee the email servers, ensure that they are up and running, address issues and remediate with the data center staff's assistance.  Further, as the needs of the business grow the only way to scale the environment is to add more hardware, which involves yet another capital expense.

From an end-user standpoint, co-location is great because the user experience is the same.  Whether the server has been deployed on-premise or off-site at a data center, the user is still using the same email client and detects no difference.  The same can't necessarily be said for a software as a service approach.

Software as a Service (SaaS)
The software as a service approach has been popular with many organizations because it removes many of the IT management burdens associated with physical hardware and software.  Because there aren't any physical servers that need to be purchased, configured or managed, it makes it easy to add additional users as the business grows and greatly reduces the amount of IT support required from the business to keep things up and running.

There are some downsides.  In some cases, the services being provided from these SaaS vendors are not comparable to what an organization is used to in an on-premise solution.  Email may only be accessible via a web browser or a different email client, one designed specifically to work with the SaaS offering.  Not all SaaS vendors have this requirement, and some of them even allow for coexistence between an on-premise and an "in the cloud" deployment. 

Whether it's email, instant messaging, document collaboration or other services, the capabilities offered by some of the SaaS vendors today are quite compelling both from a feature standpoint as well a financial one.  It is important to assess the viability of these services within the context of both financial and operational/technical benefits for your specific organization.  Through a cloud computing assessment, your organization can better understand the pros and cons of a Software as a Service approach and how to evaluate the fit of making the move. 

Cloud-based services are here, but is your organization ready for them?

For more information, please contact Michael Pelletier at or 860. 561.6869

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