Over the past number of months we have had a number of customers contact us for helpadvice as they struggle with the decision as to whether or not to move their email to the cloud. The business case for this is well documented and each organization can fairly easily make a decision based on cost and SLAs etc. Whether a move to the cloud will work for any given business is based on a number of data points. It occurred to me though, that once the decision is made to move that there are a lot of other issues and challenges that typically arise which may not be so obvious. Here are some of those items and some thoughts to consider.
• Data Transfer Migration
When moving email to the cloud, we all consider the obvious, how do I get my existing email to my new hosting service provider. The first question to ask however is ‘Should I move my existing email ‘. The answer to this may not be overly obvious. Some of the challenges to consider when migrating data are
– How many email messages do you have ??.
– Do your users need them all ??.
– Will the messages you already have fill your new cloud mailboxes before you even start with new messages ??.
– Should you move all messages, or just some. Perhaps just the more recent ??, how will you choose and how will you manage the migration.
Bandwidth to migrate your data to the cloud needs to be considered. Transferring multiple terabytes of data over a 1 or 2 megabit connection may prove challenging.
How long is it going to take you to do your migration to the cloud ??
• Service provider mobility
This one is a little trickier. Consider though what will happen if in the future you want to move your email service from one cloud provider to another. Perhaps you may be unhappy with the providers price or performance in the future, how then will you transfer your email from one provider to the other. Bear in mind that you may be talking about more than just the messages in your user mailboxes, you will likely need to consider archived messages also. This can be a significant challenge. Again issues of bandwidth and time arise, but also the issue of data formats and interoperability.
• 3rd party access and legislative requirement
You may wish to consider what kind of access third parties have to your email data and indeed your historical archive of email. Is it possible that a legal discovery order could be served on your service provider without you knowing about it?
Are you happy that you know what legal territory your data is held in (remember that there will likely be more than one copy of it?)
• Data retention
Many organizations are tasked with managing the retention of their email and other business data. How can you assure destruction of this data at the appropriate time? Remember again, that there will likely be multiple copies, not all of them on-line.
These and other questions need to be considered according to your organizations need. One strategy to mitigate some of this risk and uncertainty is to ensure that your email archive is held and managed separately from your email data. If this is still held locally it can free you from a lot of these concerns. If it is hosted in the cloud by an independent party, it can still free you up from a lot of these worries.
For a number of our customers the availability of a searchable on-premise email archive allows them to fast track their email migration to the cloud while maintaining full access to historical data for all their users. It also allows them much finer grained control of their retention and e-discovery needs.