In the IT world, experts often talk of the ‘CIA triangle’ when describing IT resources. The acronym stands for confidentiality, integrity, and availability. When it comes to email, encryption, access control, and affective archiving take care of the first two. Availability, or email continuity is a whole other challenge for IT decision-makers, who are under pressure to avoid email outages.
When building a strategy for email continuity, there are several questions that IT decision-makers can ask themselves upfront. These will help clarify their priorities.
Conventional wisdom says that no one can be without email, but in 2015, it’s worth asking how much it matters. “Ask yourself: Is email still our organization’s primary method of communication, or should I focus on other forms of communication/collaboration?” suggests Wilfredo Lassalle Jr, who co-founded IT services company JLS Technology.
Email has been around for almost half a century, and while many people still use it, there are other forms of electronic communication. Some companies, such as European consulting firm Atos, have attempted to implement ‘zero email’ policies as they work to make their communication systems more efficient. Firms like Slack are providing powerful alternatives to email in the enterprise.
Let’s not fool ourselves: email users will quickly come screaming for blood if the service goes down, and that is understandable. After all, they can lose business opportunities if they can’t easily contact customers, or each other.
Even with critical services like email, though, IT departments should be setting service-level agreements with appropriate escalation points should the worst happen. Outages will occur. Making it clear to users how long they can expect them to last is important, as is clarifying the consequences for the IT department.
IT is moving to a service-based economy. Managed service providers already get this, but internal IT departments are starting to understand it, too. Employees demand that IT be treated like any other enterprise service, with different options to suit their needs, and even the ability to provision it themselves.
IT executives who embrace this entirely can use it to their benefit by incorporating chargeback as an important part of IT service management. Are your users willing to pay for different categories of service level agreement when it comes to email business continuity?
Administering email servers in-house incurs sometimes unexpected management overheads, including, for example, resizing personal mailboxes, enforcing archiving policies, and predicting capacity overload.
Consequently, said Lassalle, IT managers should ask themselves a key question when weighing up their email availability options: “Do you have the internal IT skillsets to manage your email systems now and in the near future?”
Relying on a cloud-based email provider can remove headaches for IT executives – just as long as they work. ‘Cloud’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘24x7’, and most of the major cloud-based email service providers have experienced email continuity disruptions in the past that have left customers scrambling to deal with email downtime. IT executives should ask themselves how they will cope with extended service outages from third-party providers, and if they are determined to take this route, consider backup options to provide a basic level of service should the primary service provider go down.
Keeping email always at your users’ disposal isn’t easy. IT decision makers should consider these issues carefully, talking with IT staff, third-party service providers, and the users themselves, to get a clear understanding of the issues they face before cementing their email continuity strategy.