It’s Time To Destroy Your E-mail Servers – Or Is It?

May 29, 2008

The Title of this is directly from the reference below, I will also admit; I don’t Like maintaining E-Mail servers.

It is true – E-mail is still a critical element for my organization, and many others. But I do not like the time required to keep these complex beasts running. And like a flighty thoroughbred – they have their eccentricities.

This Information Week (Canada) article called; Yes, it’s time to destroy your e-mail servers (I stole the title!) puts it quite succinctly.

Two more articles, one from Rob Preston at Informationweek.com he quotes;

…Capossela predicts that half of Exchange users will get their e-mail from the cloud within five years.

Another from microsoft-watch.com References the same interview – but says 5 years will be too late.

It is not always wine and roses though. We used to utilize hosted E-mail, but then returned it in-house for two reasons. One reason was that we have a fairly complex E-mail environment and utilize some of the extended collaboration features of Microsoft Exchange Server. We probably could have developed a work around for this one.

The second one was more difficult; and so far I have only seen one press mention of it. As this CIO Magazine article states;

To be sure, it’s still the early days of cloud computing. Concerns (exist) around security and application latency…

This last quote is what caused our problems and deserves a little more detailed look. The term “latency” can be defined as the time taken for a packet of data to be sent by an application, travel and be received by another application. Now this little term can more complex than it sounds.

As an analogy, if you are driving 40 miles, at 40 miles per hour, we can automatically assume that we know how long this journey will take. And assuming you were on an empty highway with the cruise control on – we could be right.

However, if that 40 miles is across town and includes stop signs, traffic lights, some toll roads, merging lanes and all of the slowdowns that we can have driving, we can no longer assume how long our journey will take. Network connections are like that cross-town journey. Every router, switch, firewall, traffic shaping device and other tools used on the network all act like those stop lights, and merge lanes, each one slightly slowing down that traffic journey.

If you have ever opened an E-mail on a Web mail service such as Hotmail or GMail and then tried to view that new 1 Mb baby picture you were sent – you see what a time consuming exercise that can be. Now imagine it with a 10 Mb Power Point deck or Adobe PDF document.

Then imagine that you emailed that 10 Mb power point presentation to all 10 members of a project team – and all 10 start to look at it roughly at the same time. 10 Mb x 10 people downloading it to their PC is 100 Mb of data that you are squishing through your internet connection. The time it takes to open that E-mail will degrade even farther.

That is what killed hosted email for us, like most businesses in the SMB space, we cannot afford an infinitely huge “pipe” to the Internet, and as we deal with large media and Adobe PDF files, many of which are E-mailed, We found that during peak periods, it had reached the point that opening an email with an attachement had to be done beore you went to lunch – you hoped it would be finished when you got back.

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