In the early days of the internet, building a server dedicated to providing email for your company was a sign that you understood the significant role it played (or would play) in your company’s success. Even small companies spent countless thousands of dollars investing in these complex technology beasts, primarily because it was either that, or use consumer services like CompuServe, HotMail or AOL which just couldn’t meet the growing security and legal needs of most companies. Fast forward to today and I’m still seeing SMB companies insisting on running their own servers for reasons that have since become a liability to their own business.
Things you should consider if you are still running your own email server:
- Do you think your email server is more secure than the ones run by Google, Microsoft or any technology company who’s entire business model is built around providing that service? Unless you are in the business of providing email services, you should focus your efforts and money on your core business.
- How reliable is your technology infrastructure? What happens when your internet goes down? What about the power in your building? Most clients I know have at least one planned power outage a year and probably several unplanned ones, on top of the occassional internet circuit failure. One client was recently down for over a week during the Verizon-Frontier fiasco. Could you survive without email for that long? Could your company?
- How much money have you spent supporting an email server that provides service for a small staff? Have you calculated the cost per user per month? Is it less than $5? If not, you are not “beating the market”. And even if you are, how long do you think that will last? Did you factor in spam and malware filtering licensing costs?
- After having the same mailbox and server for years, has your mailbox grown to an enormous size and now you are running out of space and have no real means to do anything about it? Is your mail backed up? Can you even reasonably search through that much email and not have constant problems?
- Have changes in your industry required you provide security like encryption or compliance filtering? Suddenly you are faced with the prospect of needing to not only purchase new software, but also having to update your technology infrastructure just to be compatible with the new software.
If any of these five points hit close to home, you should definitely be considering the move to a hosted email provider. The market has stabilized to the point of being able to provide enterprise-grade email services on an SMB-sized budget, leveling a playfield that used to favor deep pockets and dedicated IT staff. It’s time to retire the in-house email server and invest in the future of your business instead of a dead-end technology strategy.
The internet revolutionized the way we shop for things. Whether it’s researching cars, travel, homes, technology or just our next meal, many of us pull out our smartphone before we pull out the wallet. While this can sometimes lead to superb deals and fantastic discounts for many useful things, it’s also contributing to the “commoditization” of technology goods, which can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, this trend helps drive down prices on useful and powerful technologies. Remember when you bought that 5GB hard drive for $500? That same amount of money can buy you 3000 times the storage space today. Remember when only certain staff were allowed access to the internet and email? When only Wall Street traders and big time drug dealers had car phones? Today I see grade school children with mobile devices that are orders of magnitude more powerful than the devices we used 10 years ago. On the flip side of this is a more subtle, negative effect, where costs become the primary determining factor in making technology choices, often to our detriment.
Let me ‘splain:
Apple’s iPhone line, from the start, required a proprietary cable to sync and charge itself. As one would expect of Apple products, it was priced accordingly (ie. high), and as one would expect of things that are small, and plugged into awkward corners under desks and behind furniture, frequently replaced. Enter the third party manufacturers who produce replacement chargers and cables at a fraction of the price of Apple’s. “I just bought this $5 charger and cable for my ($800) iPhone. Look! It’s charging just fine!” Maybe it is, and maybe you bought a product from someone who just won a race to the bottom, and it’s a safe bet they didn’t get there by innovating.
There’s nothing wrong with being a smart shopper, nor with saving some money, especially on technology, but make sure you weigh the value the technology delivers for you or your business against your budget requirements. When purchasing computers for your business, do you really want to buy the cheapest available? When considering a monitor, do you value screen size and quality against the fact that you’ll probably be staring at this device for hundreds, if not thousands of hours? When it comes to technology, low cost does not always equate to the best value, and in many cases it may lead to longer term headaches. Remember the low-cost iPhone chargers I mentioned earlier? What if that $5 charger shorted out the battery in your shiny iPhone, something that might end up costing you 20 times the cost of the charger to rectify, not to mention a rather large inconvenience. I’m not saying that great bargains don’t exist in the technology world, but just be prepared to make some lemonade along the way.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net