"Our costs declined and our service levels improved. Plus we get more disciplined management and better security," Davidson says, letting the foundation now support some Sarbanes-Oxley rules that it couldn't afford before. (While not obligated to follow them, executive management saw several as beneficial governance approaches, she says.)
Originally, Davidson outsourced all IT operations to one vendor. But after several years of seeing the systems actually outsourced, it became clear that some, such as email, could easily be handled separately. "We now view Exchange as a commodity service. It's OK to be separate," Davidson says. So when the foundation asked for bids to take on the outsourcing as part of its contract renewal two years ago, she separated email into its own RFP to open up more competition.
Examples of email outsourcers
Among the vendors offering email outsourcing, many are local or regional providers serving the small-business market, which led the adoption of this approach. However, a growing number of firms also serve midsize and large enterprises. Those that deliver Microsoft Exchange hosting include 123Together.com, Apptix, AT&T's USi division, Connectria, Intermedia.net, Orange Business Services, Rackspace, USA.net and Verizon Business.
Providers of IBM Lotus Notes hosting include Connectria, Prominic.net and Riverwatch. For enterprises that are willing to move away from the established email applications (Exchange, Notes and Novell GroupWise), Google recently began providing a business-class version of its Gmail service.
Many providers also offer remote monitoring and management of internal email servers, for enterprises that want to keep ownership of email systems onsite. Examples of those supporting midsize and large enterprises include AT&T USi, Azaleos, Cognizant, Connectria, Dimension Data, Hewlett-Packard and IBM.
For CIOs looking to outsource just email spam and threat management, options include MessageLabs, MX Logic, Postini (acquired by Google on July 9) and Sophos.
Making your case
The case for outsourcing email has been harder for enterprise IT to make, IDC analyst Levitt notes. "It's not easy to hand off; it's as core to IT as you can imagine," he says, with a lot of resources and expertise already invested. That investment acts as an anchor that keeps the email servers and administration in-house. However, as large enterprises consider consolidation, system upgrades or large outsourcing efforts, it makes sense to consider an email outsourcing strategy at the same time, Levitt says.