Deciding on whether to outsource your email and communications to a third party or to run the infrastructure yourself is a challenge that can raise many questions. What if your business needs to change? What if you get locked in? Will this future proof my business?
So what do you need to consider when managing your business communications in an ever-changing fast-paced business environment? This blog should help you begin an informed process to make the right choice for your business.
Those who opt to use a hosted email provider are often able to quickly see both direct and indirect cost savings. Sometimes the direct costs alone are a significant enough motivation to make the business decision to change. But it’s important to look at total costs and the potential for indirect savings such as electricity or claims for overtime to fix unplanned outages. That’s when the overall impact on the bottom line becomes apparent. Finding this can take some worthwhile detective work.
The other major point to consider is the predictability of cost. This is the reason why ‘like-for-like’ comparisons are so difficult. With a hosted solution, you pay for what you need at an agreed fixed price and that covers everything you need to run and consume the service.
So if you have a new employee join the business, the exact cost of adding them to the service is very easy to forecast and very easy to allocate.
It’s easy for a business to account for ‘obvious costs’ like the server, licencing and planned upgrades. The items that are often missed include the incidental, real-world costs such as back-up, filtering and anti-virus, in-life hardware replacement, etc.
Example business case
It can be easier to visualise an example.
A travel company who, after a successful campaign for summer holidays, employed several new staff one month to cope with demand. If they stay in-house the hardware may need to be upgraded to cope with the influx of new users. Because the recruitment was reactionary to a sudden uplift in business, the IT department would get very little notice that the work has to be done, so the work may need to be completed in paid overtime.
If the business can cope with the investment in time and resources then they are fine. But it might be that a hosting provider could deliver improvements in feature sets, compliance, reliability and performance at more predictable costs.
The integration of voice into communications tools and the proliferation of devices and dispersed working has meant that the tools we use have had to become ever more flexible and more secure. If a laptop or phone gets lost or stolen you need to be able to get back to a previous state in minutes – not days, if you want to not lose all productivity and momentum.
This means the complexity of configuration, management and support continues to grow over shorter periods of time, increasing the IT workloads for staff and potentially creating rising costs of IT support and consultancy.
This is why it helps to understand the true, hard costs of solutions like messaging systems and know that this can include the cost of holiday cover or overtime for the email administrator!
Other areas to consider might be;
- The amortization of the server over its useful life
- The amortization of backup hardware
- Software licenses
- Maintenance per year
- Disaster recovery plan – consultant fees
- Other software costs: backup software, Anti-Virus, Anti-Spam etc.
- Possible events - if it goes down, what are ALL of your actual downtime costs across the business?
Security and compliance
While firms often feel comfortable keeping servers within eye sight inside their own offices, businesses do experience theft, burglary or trespass, resulting in the damage or loss of computer hardware and ultimately their communications.
It can be a complicated, even tedious, ongoing process including:
- Operating system installation and hardening configuration
- Prompt testing and application of security patches and updates
- Strict configuration of user and administrative accounts with roles and permissions
- Proactive monitoring of the servers and services for viruses, intrusions, and any unexpected behaviours such as denial-of-service attacks and intrusion attempts
- Software has got more robust in recent years, patching has become easier and vulnerabilities are well publicised and able to be dealt with in a timely way; however it still takes time and effort to manage.
Hopefully this very rough guide gives some idea of the kind of questions to start asking as you look to investigate your cloud potential.