By Ben Duncan, Founder & CTO, atmail
For service providers like ISPs, HSPs, and telcos that provide email solutions to end users — and even for businesses managing their own email servers in-house — the message is clear. The trade-offs between cloud and on premise no longer favor on premise.
Cloud infrastructure’s reign is coming quickly to email solutions, and the industry as a whole will have to work fast to meet a flood of cloud-fueled demand. A Radicati study on the email solution marketplace finds cloud-based email services will continue to see exponential growth year over year and it’s now experiencing strong adoption by organizations of all sizes and across all verticals. At the same time, companies like Microsoft have confirmed widespread demand for cloud email services now provides a powerful catalyst for cloud adoption in general.
While using on premises email servers still has a role where there might be data sovereignty issues and special email needs (particularly for large email providers who have the scale to manage their own servers), it still presents numerous logistical complexities that can make management, scaling, and on-boarding of customers difficult — issues which the right cloud-based platforms happen to handily solve. The challenges most often hinge on infrastructure. Administrating an on premises solution means dealing with physical hardware, and managing architecture and internal IT resources. It also means facing the complexity of purchasing and implementing new dedicated physical servers in order to increase service capacity.
This complexity amounts to a fundamental limitation on overall business growth. It can be difficult to adjust to business needs and show confidence in offering large-scale services to new client prospects without the providers being assured they can overcome the logistical challenges to fulfill those new duties.
In our era of service-level agreement guarantees, a provider acting responsibly yet is reliant on premises infrastructure that requires careful and laborious effort to expand is all but required to keep one foot over the brake while accepting any new business that requires scaling. Not to mention scaling in this manner is expensive, with each new on premises server representing a sizable investment that must be recouped through smart business planning as it can also do real budgetary harm to put substantial resources into increasing capacity with no ultimate need (nor customers) for it.
This realization has translated into a significant silver lining for customers and service providers alike, who are flocking to the cloud in droves because of the transformative advantages such systems offer.
It should be noted though, not all clouds are alike. For example, a cloud solution created with physical on premises hardware will have all the same issues of scaling and infrastructural complexity as an equivalent non-cloud option. The email cloud services that really do change the game for businesses are those that offer virtualized infrastructure. By employing virtual machines (VMs) to spin up new instances of email solutions rather than actual physical servers, businesses can more or less increase their capacity at will. The process of adding servers and configuring infrastructure via VMs is automated, and management is drastically simpler.
Performance is another major benefit of the switch to the cloud, where mature solutions like DreamHost’s DreamCompute platform (built on OpenStack) use solid-state drives and cloud-based storage technology to boost the speed and dependability of operations beyond what on premises solutions can muster. Most importantly, service providers of email solutions can use their new cloud-derived capability to scale as needed, and act with more confidence when quoting large-scale email offerings to new customers knowing that they’ll be able to follow through on those commitments.
With email solutions trending strongly toward the cloud — where they can make the most of virtualized infrastructure — look for service providers and other companies agile enough to translate these advantages into more efficient, performant and affordable maintenance and scaling email systems, amounting to not just better service, but a key business advantage.
Ben Duncan is the Founder & CTO at atmail, an email messaging platform for service providers and businesses around the world