Migrating business email to the cloud

Email has been a central component of business operations for decades, and has become an increasingly vital communication tool in our current remote work environment. While organizations’ email services were traditionally provided on-premises, there has been a rapid, widespread migration to cloud email platforms like Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace to accommodate remote workers, cut costs and increase operational efficiency. There are currently over 200 million users actively subscribed to Microsoft 365 for email and collaboration services - a pretty incredible number given that only four years ago Gartner reported that 90% of companies worldwide were still using on-premises email.

Cloud email can be highly beneficial; however, there are some drawbacks of moving business email to the cloud that must be considered. In this article, we’ll examine the pros and cons of cloud email for business and equip you with the knowledge you need to make an informed decision about whether or not your business should adopt cloud email services. Let’s begin by taking a look at some of the most notable benefits that cloud email services offer.

Key Benefits:

Flexible & Cost-Effective

Cloud email is a subscription service model, resulting in significant cost savings for implementation and maintenance. By adopting cloud email services, businesses replace the large capital outlay that is characteristic of on-premises email with a monthly or annual operational expense. 

Cloud platforms are highly flexible and scalable, making adjusting capacity quick and easy, as scaling capacity either up or down often does not require any major infrastructure changes. Cloud email enables companies to conveniently manage and adjust license counts and storage capacity depending on their specific and changing needs - ensuring that they are not being charged for accounts that are no longer being used.

Increased Availability & Operational Efficiency 

Provided there is Internet, remote workers can access cloud email from any location at any time, making them more efficient and productive - especially amid this pandemic. Adopting cloud email also simplifies the integration of mobile devices into the workplace - something that is becoming increasingly commonplace in this remote work environment.

By moving their email to the cloud, businesses often experience an improvement of uptime and better disaster recovery response times, allowing for more optimal email usage. The majority of cloud email providers have redundant systems to ensure that their services are highly reliable and available. For instance, both Microsoft 365 and Workspace guarantee 99.9% uptime.

Enhanced Security - With Critical Supplementary Defenses in Place

Migrating business email to the cloud provides the peace of mind that corporate mail servers - and sensitive data - are in a highly secure off-site location. Cloud email providers are able to devote more resources to protecting their facilities than the majority of other businesses - especially SMBs - can afford to invest in this.

That being said, just because cloud email servers reside in a secured location doesn’t mean that cloud email is secure. Fortifying the cloud mailbox requires layered supplementary email security defenses engineered specifically to fill the gaps in built-in cloud email defenses. We’ll dive deeper into the vulnerability of inadequately secured cloud email and the importance of implementing critical additional layers of protection in the following section.

It is apparent that using cloud email for business offers some pretty attractive advantages over relying on on-premises mail servers; however, there are also some significant downsides that businesses must take into account before making the decision to adopt cloud email services. Now that we’ve examined the key benefits of cloud email, let’s explore some of the potential drawbacks.

Notable Drawbacks:

Highly Vulnerable to Attack Without the Implementation of Additional Security Defenses 

Despite the fact that cloud email servers are housed in highly protected facilities, inadequate built-in security defenses leave cloud email highly vulnerable to attack. Default protection is simplistic and single-layered, often relying on basic filtering techniques which are ineffective in anticipating and blocking emerging attacks and detecting sophisticated, evasive threats such as spear phishing, zero-day exploits and fileless malware. Built-in cloud email defenses embody a retrospective approach to securing cloud email, relying on updates and patches that are issued after vulnerabilities are discovered - and often have already been exploited by malicious actors.

Cloud email is becoming an increasingly popular target among cyber criminals for multiple reasons. Cloud systems have proven to be too large and complex to secure, as a single security misconfiguration or improper setting could put the entire system at risk due to hidden complexities. Widespread, rushed deployments of cloud platforms to accommodate an increasingly remote workforce have exacerbated this issue, as this trend has resulted in frequent misconfiguration, access control and platform vulnerabilities that can be exploited to gain unauthorized access and launch dangerous attacks impacting millions of accounts simultaneously. The inherent uniformity of cloud platforms also works to threat actors’ advantage, enabling them to open any account and test their attack methods until they are able to bypass default filters, and then reuse these methods in attacks targeting thousands of different accounts. 

Having to relinquish a certain degree of control over critical data is another security concern associated with moving business email to the cloud. The security of a business’s data is now in the hands of the cloud email provider, as opposed being managed and maintained by the company’s own employees. Businesses that have adopted cloud email services ultimately have no control over where data is stored and when software upgrades are applied. Thus, choosing a reputable, trustworthy cloud email provider is extremely important.

Ongoing Costs Can Add Up Over Time

Because cloud systems are so large and complex, securing users and critical data in a cloud environment requires an expert IT staff who understands the intricacies of the cloud platform, how to properly configure it and the potential implications of settings changes. This is a significant investment that must be taken into account when considering migrating business email to the cloud, especially for SMBs who often lack adequate resources to devote to cybersecurity efforts.

Over time, subscription fees for cloud email services are another ongoing cost that adds up. On top of the basic subscription fee, providers often charge additional fees to perform administrative tasks, such as adding or removing mailboxes.

No Email Service - External or Internal - Without Internet

While cloud email services offer remote workers a tremendous degree of flexibility, there is one caveat that should be taken into account: with no Internet, there is no email service - external or internal. In contrast, an on-premises email server allows employees to send and receive emails within a company’s local area network (LAN) when Internet services are down.

The Bottom Line

In this increasingly digital environment, there are trade-offs to operating a business efficiently and securely that must be carefully evaluated. With the recent - and likely permanent - increase in remote workers, email has become more essential than ever for business communications and collaborative efforts. Cloud email offers some key benefits for businesses - namely, flexibility and convenience; however, these advantages are accompanied by some significant drawbacks - security being arguably the biggest concern.

That being said, it is possible, simple and affordable to reap the benefits of cloud email while ensuring that users and critical data remain secure by implementing layered supplementary cloud email security defenses accompanied by expert managed services. Having a comprehensive, proactive supplementary solution in place can bolster built-in cloud email security defenses, filling the voids in existing protection that leave critical business assets vulnerable to attack. By selecting fully-managed supplementary cloud email security services, businesses eliminate the need for a full-time IT staff, as their email security provider will assume this burden. Thus, choosing a reputable, caring provider is of utmost importance, as they will oversee the configuration, management and maintenance of the client’s email infrastructure and the security of the client’s business as a whole.

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