Moving email and anti-spam to the cloud offers advantages for small businesses
Editors note: This article is part of a series. In a previous article, author David Streit explained the origins of cloud services and the benefits of using them. This article presents some examples of cloud services that he uses for his own domain, stephillassociates.com, which resells and supports these services for clients.
Any business with a private mail domain used to require its own physical mail server for centralized email accounts, shared access to calendars and contacts, and wireless synchronization with smartphones. The server required a capital investment, anti-spam software to protect it, ongoing maintenance, upgrade and support costs, and backup. As mail is centralized, the server also represents a single point of failure.
Now, for a simple per-user fee, a business can sign up with a cloud hosting provider to host mail and anti-spam services for a private domain. If you have your own mail server, consider using a hosted anti-spam vendor. I use Reflexion Networks for anti-spam and e-mail archive. Moving anti-spam protection off your server and into the cloud offers six advantages:
1. The spam is stopped before it reaches your server, reducing the size of your mail database and keeping viruses outside of your network.
2. The load on the server is reduced because it doesnt need local anti-spam software.
3. The algorithms used to stop spam are constantly updated while software update cycles are much slower.
4. Inbound and outbound filtering of mail is supported. Anti-spam software on servers typically only filters inbound mail. This feature can keep you from sending viruses in attachments to your clients and customers.
5. Hosted services provide flexible quarantine reports and message digests to make it easy for users to review and release from quarantine false positives (legitimate messages flagged as spam).
6. Hosted services can offer related services such as online archive and encrypted email. Some firms are subject to regulatory requirements and legal discovery compliance requirements; these services help businesses manage email messages that have cleared the anti-spam filters. Reflexion, for example, offers a free feature called AOTF (Address-On-The-Fly) that lets me create aliases for my primary email address on the fly when I complete online registration and order forms. That protects my address from being sold to advertisers and scammers.
I also host my mail server, Microsoft Exchange 2010, with Intermedia, one of the largest hosting firms in the world specializing in Exchange. I pay a per-user fee for my mailbox. Thats it; Intermedia is responsible for the server and support. Wireless synchronization with my Android smartphone is included (same for Apple iPhone and iPad; Blackberry is available at extra cost). While Intermedia provides anti-spam protection at no additional cost, I prefer to use Reflexion with Intermedia. Reflexion filters my mail, which they forward to Intermedia.
With these two services I have the same mail features as a business that has invested thousands in a dedicated mail server and anti-spam software. These cloud services are just two examples of cloud services any small business can use instead of dedicated software on a local computer. Ill explore cloud services in other categories in my next column.