Outsourcing Email Saves Money, Time & Resources

By Paul Rubens

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When you're running a busy IT department, developing, customizing and managing mission-critical applications, the last thing you want is your IT staff solving problems with the corporate messaging platform.

Obviously messaging's important but there's no mistaking it's a commodity. It needs to be available, but it doesn't differentiate your company from competitors or give it a specific competitive advantage. In fact, unlike core corporate systems, it's likely to one of a limited number of products on the market like Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Notes or Oracle Collaboration Suite.

Managing messaging systems seem to be particularly hard on in-house IT departments when companies grow rapidly, operate in many locations, or are involved in highly regulated industries with particularly stringent archiving and other requirements.

Such was the case at HOK, a St. Louis, MO.-based architectural firm, said CIO Ken Young.

"We had about 1300 mailboxes in 23 locations around the world, and our Exchange messaging platform was made up of 17 Exchange servers," he said "We decided we wanted to consolidate and upgrade, and add Outlook web access. The benefits to us of outsourcing to USA.net were speed and cost. Messaging is not our field of expertise, and now I have the pleasure of knowing that messaging is not my problem any more."And an increasing number of companies like HOK are taking the same route: outsourcing messaging lock, stock and barrel.

"Most of our customers approach us looking for a lower cost alternative to what they have already," said Cathie Frazzini, senior vice president of Sales & Marketing at USA.net, an email outsourcer. "They just don't want to have to invest the time and energy in a major implementation, so they look to outsource their messaging instead."

As well as reduced costs and maintenance headaches, the speed with which an outsourced messaging solution can be up and running, compared with an in-house solution, is often a major attraction.

"We were faced with some urgency as support for our CC-Mail system had ceased and it would have taken us some months to implement Exchange in-house," said the IS manager of an Irvine, TX-based research company, who wished to remain anonymous.

Instead he chose BlueStar Solutions' hosted Exchange service, which was up and running in just a few days.

"[W]e did this deal for the expertise that BlueStar could offer, and so as not to get distracted by an Exchange implementation. They have virus and spam protection skills that you can't quickly acquire yourself."

Like any outsourcing deal, outsourcing email involves handing over an important business function to a third party, and the decision on whether to do this, regardless of the benefits of doing so, comes down to a personal philosophy on the potential risks.

"It's true that by outsourcing we are putting all our eggs in the USA.net basket," said HOK's Young, "but, in the end, by outsourcing our email we have a solution that is more reliable than we would have been able to provide in-house."

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