Oncore IT News - 24 October 2013

Email management: understanding the key issues

The way we communicate at work is evolving and as more companies begin to embrace social networking, instant messaging (IM) and internal platforms for corporate interaction, it is easy to overlook the legacy of email. While some are already proclaiming email dead, the reality is the complete opposite.

Cloud based messaging systems may be changing how we undertake business, but email is here to stay and the challenges that arise with corporate messaging are set to increase in complexity as cloud applications increase in popularity. So what do IT managers need to consider when implementing corporate messaging on their networks?

Addressing the Issues

The most important issue is reliability – for example, is the organisation able to withstand downtime? If not, before proceeding with email setup, IT managers must consider the resilience and availability of their infrastructure. Users expect email to be readily available so achieving system uptime through local clustering or remote disaster recovery is critical. With this in mind, the backup and hosting (local or cloud) of an email system is equally important.

Technology aside, how the email system will be used needs to be addressed. The organisation’s working culture will ultimately define this. While there’s been a movement towards CRM systems, email is still the most common method for directing workflow. Furthermore, if apprehension around IM exists, many smaller conversations that are suited to IM will actually be held within email. It is therefore important to not only assess a company’s email needs, but look at its entire messaging structure.

Thirdly, we have policies. What rules need to be set? When will backups take place and will it be a continual process? Will they occur multiple times a day and will email be archived? If so, how big should mailboxes be allowed to grow? Having a competent email system that allows the easy setting of policies and their enforcement is imperative. Policy management is by far the most productive method for streamlining existing systems.

Remote Security

Finally we have remote working and the security concerns that accompany it. The explosion of smartphones, and the control issues that come with them, raises further reliability complexities. Users expect access to email, whether on site or off, anywhere in the world. Controlling multiple remote devices can become tedious, so when implementing email, exploring the management tools available in the cloud is as important as locally hosted options. Other potential security headaches come in the form of spam filtering and firewalling. Of course, spam filters are a necessity and while an inadequately configured filter can give management a headache, every part of an email infrastructure should be considered to have the same importance as the other.

However, this shouldn’t eliminate the option of strategically outsourcing components like spam protection to a reliable third party provider. Outsourcing can strengthen an enterprise’s email defense because managed service providers focus on the specialist protection of email rather than the entire IT infrastructure.

It can also help educate a workforce on healthy email use. For example, if a policy exists that restricts attachment size, emails will be seemingly rejected for that very reason. From a user perspective it will seem that the spam filter is causing issues, when in reality it is a lack of education of good email practice. If having invested in the cloud, IT managers should work with the service provider to ensure the email infrastructure takes a workforce’s varying levels of knowledge into account.

Finally many overlook the storage implications that accompany email management. The requirement for storage will continue to grow and so will the need for it to be backed up. In this case, remote storage is definitely an option whether deployed for either live email or archives. The cloud can contribute to these size issues, because in its very nature cloud storage offers end users limitless growth. Again, IT Managers need to consider policies and archive solutions – these are now an integral component of messaging systems and key to reducing mailbox sizes.

The Future

Looking ahead it can be said that social media and IM will continue to increase in corporate environments, but at the same time, email will still exist as a channel that is supported by these. The landscape of corporate communications is changing, but in essence the management of these systems is not. The cloud may be opening up new avenues, but overall it is merely providing a new way to approach email, not replace it.

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