Getting ahead in the cloud

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Content Copyright © 2012 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.
Also posted on: Security Blog

Cloud-based computing is growing faster than the IT sector as a whole. There are plenty of analysts throwing numbers about regarding cloud spending. Here are some from Forrester Research: in 2011, US$40.7 billion was spent on public, private and virtual private cloud IT services and that will expand to US$241 billion by 2020. Of that spend, US$21.2 billion was spent on software as a service, which will expand to US$92.8 billion by 2016 – 26% of all sales of packaged software applications.

One area that is showing particular growth is the market for email management and archiving. It is estimated that around 60% of business-critical data is transmitted via email, either in the body of the text or as attachments, and that information forms the basis of vital business records. All organisations are subject to regulations of some form or another and many of those regulations demand that business records be maintained. Those regulations vary widely from those applicable to specific industries, such as financial services or pharmaceuticals, to those affecting any organisation, such as employment and data protection regulations.

Being able to retrieve those business records when needed is not only vital for regulatory compliance, but also aids greatly in the productivity of workers and in responding to internal or external regulations. According to Osterman Research, 66% of IT organisations that it surveyed referred to email or instant message archives or backup tapes to support their organisation’s case in litigation in 2010 and 63% were ordered by a court or regulatory body to product email or instant message records.

However, whilst the need to maintain business records is stark, technology vendor Proofpoint found in a recent survey that just 54% of large organisations in the US had deployed a technology solution for email archiving in 2010 and another survey, by GFI Software, found that that proportion fell to just over one-third of small and medium-sized companies.

Early email archiving technology tended to focus on the needs of specific types of companies, with financial services particularly well served. And, as email volumes continue to grow and grow, many felt that centrally archiving all emails was too complex a challenge. For large organisations in particular, scalability was considered to be an issue, and many others brushed the issue under a carpet. As a result, many organisations continue to rely on users storing emails on their own hard drives or using the email system itself as a storage repository. Neither is a good option as email records can be hard to find or even lost forever – especially if stored on a piece of equipment that is lost or stolen, which is a common problem with laptops and other portable media. A further issue to be considered is that many employees regularly use their smartphones for sending and receiving emails and those emails need to be captured for future use as well.

However, there is an alternative available that is suitable for any organisation, no matter its size or the regulatory burden that it faces – subscribing to cloud-based email management and archiving services. Such services take the cost and complexity out of managing email storage and provide ancillary services as well, such as business continuity and security. They are also highly scalable and suited to the demands of the mobile workforce.

According to Orlando Scott-Cowley, product marketing manager at cloud archiving vendor Mimecast, “Email archiving is going through the phases of its lifecycle. On-premise solutions are no longer scalable, have become too complex and don’t really solve the email retention or litigation readiness problems that organisations have. Companies, whether regulated or not, are now turning to the cloud for their email archiving needs. Those that chose to deploy on-premise archives all those years ago are now finding they have the added complexity of migrating those solutions to more flexible and scalable cloud offerings. Setting their data free has become a bit of a nightmare, but their current on-premise vendors do not appear to be keen to wake them up from their bad dream.”

Jon Pilkington, VP marketing and product management at cloud archiving vendor Sonian agrees, stating “Cloud-powered archiving provides a cost-effective, highly scalable solution for SMEs and enterprises alike. We view the cloud as a transformation service that is challenging the capital-intensive, on-premise models in use today, making email archiving accessible to companies of all sizes and verticals.”

Email management and archiving are considered by many organisations to be among the most suitable applications for using cloud-based services as they are relatively uncomplicated and uniform. In December 2010, the US government unveiled its “Cloud first” policy, under which federal agencies must consider the option of using cloud-based services when planning new IT projects. In April 2011, the White House CIO stated that 15 agencies had announced that they intended to move their email management and archiving applications into the cloud. Two agencies – the General Services Administration and the Department of Agriculture – claim to have saved some US$40 million by abandoning in-house email. Building on this, the US government announced in November 2011 that all federal agencies have until May 2012 to report on how they intend to improve the way that they store and manage electronic records including emails, blog posts and social media activity, and the White House, in conjunction with the National Archives and Records Administration, is currently drafting a new records management directive. Using cloud-based services is considered by many to be the best option.

Other governments are following this lead. The UK government has stated that cloud computing should account for half of its IT spend by 2015 and it is hoped that this will reduce its annual IT expenditure of £16 billion by £3.2 billion.

Organisations that follow suit and embrace the cloud for email management and archiving will find that there are many benefits from doing so, not least of which is the peace of mind that business records will be securely preserved and can be easily retrieved as and when necessary. Emails are among the most requested documents as evidence in lawsuits and the courts no longer accept the argument of technical difficulty when dealing with legal issues surrounding email management and archiving. With cloud-based services, the burden and cost is taken out of the hands of the organisation and placed in those of specialists. For a competitive overview of some of the main players, click to download this document: Email archiving best practices.