The anthrax scare is making many people afraid to use the postal system. They are turning to email as the primary means of communication.
But email has its challenges, too. This May the Love Letter virus struck hard and fast, bringing down enterprise email systems around the globe. And although that was probably the most publicized email virus of the year, it was by no means the only one to create havoc in business organizations.
In addition to email viruses, email spam (unsolicited email) and spoofing (falsifying an email user's identity to trick the receiving party into clicking on a hyperlink that often leads to a sexually explicit Web site) also create problems in enterprise email systems due to their volume. The Gartner Group, a technology research and advisory firm based in Stamford, CT, estimates that 90 percent of email users receive at least one unwanted email each week while 33 percent of users receive six to 10 unwanted messages in a seven-day period.
Secure and Without Worries
It is these kind of email annoyances and security risks that drove Vancouver, Canada-based Empirial Parking to turn to an outsourcer to provide the email capabilities the company needed. "Our previous email provider didn't have any virus protection," says Dilan Arumainathan, systems administrator. "We had to maintain virus protection in-house and usually it was very outdated as far as virus signatures go," he says.
That's typically the case for organizations that must maintain virus protection in-house. Usually, the person in charge of updating the software also has many other functions, and updating virus software falls to the bottom of the "to-do" list.
Arumainathan says that virus protection, along with cost savings, were the two biggest considerations when the company chose to outsource its email functions to Electric Mail Company, an outsourcing supplier in Burnaby, British Columbia. "Another reason for choosing the Electric Mail Company was the lower cost of email maintenance and everything that goes along with it," he adds.
Those cost savings add up. In-house mail programs can cost an organization from $80 to $200 per user. But the Electric Mail Company can provide services for as little as $5 per user, according to the company Web site. In addition to basic email, buyers can add services such as virus scanning, calendaring, group messaging and filtering. The company also offers Web interface for email programs.
Any Time, Any Place
Paul Wilhoit, manager of CRM implementation services for Atlanta, GA-based Fulcrum Consulting Group, says that the Web interface was one of the main reasons that Fulcrum decided to outsource email to the Electric Mail Company.
"We have 60 employees scattered through the U.S.," he says. "Most of those people travel a lot, and they were using their own email services, which weren't always reliable," he says. Having a Web interface ensures that all employees can get their email, no matter where they are or when they need to access it. In addition, Wilhoit says, "We didn't want to bring email in-house because of the maintenance it requires. We didn't have the skill set to operate it efficiently."
Of course, even having a reliable third party provide and maintain your email services won't guarantee it is always available. "Most of the problems we've had are Internet problems," says Wilhoit. "But the Electric Mail Company has redundancies in place in case of an Internet problem. And as far as technical issues, they have always been very quick to solve those problems."
The Future of Email
Iain Black, president and chief executive officer of the Electric Mail Company, says the technology of outsourcing email is the easy part. "The challenge is in human behavior," he says.
Because of expectations concerning functionality, email use is changing. The advent of 4G (fourth generation) applications, or those that work with wireless appliances, has become the most difficult problem facing companies that outsource email. Outsourcing to providers like the Electric Mail Company gives companies the ability to remain relevant as technology changes.
Suppliers also provide scalability that in-house systems are typically not equipped to handle. Black reports his users are sending two times as many emails today as they were six months ago. "And that's two times as many as six months before that," he says. According to the Gartner Group, the outsourced email industry in North America will grow from about $1.3 billion in 2000 to more than $5.4 billion in 2003.
In addition to that four-fold increase, Black says that the size of emails has increased by about four times over the last year. "This is a very fast moving, vibrant technology community that's tripping all over itself just to stay ahead," he says.
Should you outsource email? "At the end of the day, what business are you in, and what business do you want to be in?" Unless email is your core competency, allowing someone else to handle it "just makes sense," he says.
Lessons from the Outsourcing Primer:
- About 90 percent of email users receive at least one piece of spam each day according to the Gartner Group, and that spam can decrease efficiencies within email systems.
- Virus protection is essential to any email system but can potentially be costly and time consuming to maintain.
- Web-based email allows access from anywhere and at any time.
- According to the Gartner Group, the outsourced email industry will likely reach $5.4 billion in 2003.