The case for outsourcing email management

Adecco Group chose to shift the responsibility for malware protection to a specialist, and reduce risks of downtime, by outsourcing its email management to a provider.

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You may also have some custom integration with other enterprise systems, such as order-taking systems, which get their input from email, Bossi notes. For organisations that aren't ready to make the leap to complete outsourcing, there's an interim step: Have a managed service provider remotely monitor and control the email servers in-house, says IDC's Levitt. IBM, Hewlett-Packard and other consultancies have long offered this service.

Still, outsourcing email will not work for everyone. The city of Seattle's CISO, Michael Hamilton, has contemplated migrating his email to an outside provider, but decided against it due to several challenges. The toughest one is the city's use of Novell's GroupWise email server, which very few outsourcers support, he says. Another challenge is the high level of heterogeneity among city agencies, many of which have very specialised requirements. The police, for example, don't want their data stored offsite, for security and privacy reasons.

But Hamilton did outsource his email anti-malware operations to Postini to get that burden off his plate.

Plan ahead

Enterprises considering email outsourcing should think expansively, recommends Wu Zhou, a senior research analyst for network lifecycle services at IDC. As voice and data technologies merge, email will morph into or become part of a unified messaging platform, she says. "Find the partner that can not only provide cost-effective outsourcing of email but also work with you to grow the functionality."

It makes sense to anticipate other email needs when you outsource, agrees Adecco's Bossi. For example, mobile messaging at Adecco is today split between Palm Treo and Research in Motion BlackBerry devices. But his outsourcer supports Microsoft gadgets too. So if and when his users want those devices, he'll be covered. And he can let someone else handle the details.

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