Migrating Business Email: The Hidden Complexities You Need To Know
- by Brittany Day
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. Over 200 million users are 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, some drawbacks of moving business email to the cloud 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 decide whether your business should adopt cloud email services. We’ll also explore how cloud email security can enable businesses to reap the benefits of cloud email without sacrificing security.
What is Cloud Email?
Cloud email is an online email correspondence program hosted on a remote server or data center and accessed through the Internet. Instead of using an on-premises email solution where the infrastructure is managed locally, cloud email relies on a vendor's hardware, storage, servers, and related resources to handle email communications.
With cloud email, users can access their email accounts and send/receive messages from any device with an internet connection. This flexibility increases productivity and collaboration; users can access their emails anywhere.
Cloud email services typically offer additional benefits such as scalability, automatic backups, and disaster recovery. Scaling up or down is easier as cloud email is designed to be easily scalable, allowing organizations to adjust their email storage and users as needed. Cloud email also serves as a backup for files, ensuring that information is retrievable even if local systems experience issues.
One of the main reasons organizations adopt cloud email is cost savings. By using a cloud-based service, organizations can save on hardware costs, maintenance, and operational expenses compared to managing an on-premises email solution. Time savings are also a factor, as organizations can offload the responsibility of managing email infrastructure to the cloud provider, allowing IT teams to focus on other core tasks.
Is It Safe to Use Cloud Email?
Cloud email can be considered safe, but it depends on various factors, such as the security measures implemented by the cloud service provider and the user's practices in securing their email account.
Cloud email providers often implement robust security measures to protect user data. These measures may include data encryption in transit and at rest, regular system updates and patching, multi-factor authentication, spam filtering, and data backup and recovery mechanisms. These security measures help mitigate risks and ensure email data's confidentiality, integrity, and availability.
However, it is also essential for users to take precautions to enhance the security of their cloud email accounts. This includes using strong and unique passwords, enabling multi-factor authentication, regularly updating software and applications, being cautious with email attachments and links (to avoid phishing attacks), and being aware of the cloud email provider's privacy and data protection policies.
While cloud email providers strive to provide secure and reliable services, users must choose reputable providers with a strong track record in terms of security and privacy. Researching and selecting a trusted cloud email provider is crucial to ensure the safety of your email communications. Partnering with a trusted cloud email security provider is also highly recommended to ensure a greater level of safety when using cloud email for business communications.
What Are the Key Benefits of Cloud Email for Business?
Notable benefits of migrating business email to the cloud include:
Enhanced Security and Reliability
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 can devote more resources to protecting their facilities than most other businesses, especially SMBs, can afford to invest in this.
In cloud computing, any information offloaded is stored on highly secure servers at the host’s location. By outsourcing email security, businesses create another obstacle for breachers attempting to access sensitive information. The additional benefit of cloud-based security only adds another layer of difficulty for cybercriminals. Each cloud service is different, but the primary function of data protection remains the same, and security is a top priority for these companies since their business relies so heavily on it. Most cloud email security providers will encrypt your information and keep everything within the company.
With no hardware holding users back, cloud-based email security is highly flexible, as per-using licensing allows coverage for the entirety of a team. When these systems inevitably have to update, it will not cause delays due to slow updates across every user's device due to its quick deployment. Minimizing downtime is an important detail when protecting against threats. The convenience of no physical on-site hardware allows for handling large amounts of data and even offers complete protection to those working remotely. Downtime is minimal, as a host’s focus is keeping their tools fully operational, allowing constant feedback, and checking server status.
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 explicitly engineered to fill the gaps in built-in cloud email defenses. In the following section, we’ll dive deeper into the vulnerability of inadequately secured cloud email and the importance of implementing critical additional layers of protection.
Increased Availability & Operational Efficiency
With cloud-based email security comes automated threat detection and instant response. The invested development of cloud security has resulted in many services offering advanced immediate detection of threats, even warning users about a possible threat on certain emails. Maintenance costs are lower without owning any on-premise hardware, as fees go directly to the chosen service, usually offering full-time support and resources. Having data in the cloud is also always remotely accessible. This enables those often traveling for work to contribute while constantly on the move.
With the 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 in uptime and better disaster recovery response times, allowing for more optimal email usage. Most cloud email providers have redundant systems to ensure their services are highly reliable and available. For instance, both Microsoft 365 and Workspace guarantee 99.9% uptime.
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 considerable capital outlay 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 significant infrastructure changes. They can easily add or remove services as needed, which helps organizations to control their costs. 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. This scalability also means that organizations can quickly respond to new threats as they emerge without having to invest in new hardware or software.
Cloud email security is often more cost-effective than traditional on-premise solutions, as the infrastructure and maintenance costs are shared among many users. With cloud email security, organizations can reduce their upfront investment in hardware, software, and other resources required for on-premise solutions. Instead, they pay for the services they need on a subscription basis, which can be more affordable for organizations with limited budgets or fluctuating security needs.
In addition to the lower upfront costs, cloud email security eliminates the need for organizations to hire and train dedicated IT staff to manage the security systems. The service provider handles the security systems' maintenance and upgrades, saving organizations the time and resources they would have otherwise spent on these tasks.
What Are the Notable Drawbacks of Cloud Email for Business?
Significant drawbacks of migrating business email to the cloud include:
High Vulnerability Without Additional Security Defenses
Although cloud email servers are housed in highly protected facilities, inadequate built-in security defenses leave cloud email vulnerable to attack. Default protection is simplistic and single-layered, often relying on basic filtering techniques that 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 issued after discovered vulnerabilities and often exploited by malicious actors.
For multiple reasons, cloud email is becoming an increasingly popular target among cybercriminals. 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 an account and test their attack methods until they can bypass default filters, 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 instead of being managed and maintained by the company’s employees. Businesses that have adopted cloud email services have no control over where data is ultimately 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 significant investment must be considered when migrating business email to the cloud, especially for SMBs, who often need more resources for 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, one caveat 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.
Keep Learning About Securing Cloud Email
In this increasingly digital environment, trade-offs to operating a business efficiently and securely must be carefully evaluated. With the recent, and likely permanent, increase in remote workers, email has become more important 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 comprehensive cloud email security defenses accompanied by expert, fully-managed vCISO services. A reputable third-party cloud email security solution 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 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.
- Implementing a comprehensive email security system can help prevent advanced threats like targeted spear phishing, and ransomware.
- Learn more about how to protect your business from ransomware.
- Improve your email security posture to protect against attacks by following best practices.
- Keeping the integrity of your email safe requires securing the cloud with spam filtering and enterprise-grade anti-spam services.
- Get the latest updates on how to stay safe online.
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