What government is teaching us about cloud email

Who said government is stodgy and wasteful?

When it comes to cloud computing, government’s on the forefront—particularly when it comes to cloud-based email. The US Army, EPA, GSA, Interior, Labor, the USDA… they are all among the government organizations moving email to the cloud under Obama’s “cloud first” policy.

The US Department of Veterans Affairs is showing particular prudence by starting out with a relatively small, 15,000-mailbox pilot to make sure it’s properly addressing all the security, compliance, governance and cost-savings concerns that are all part and parcel of the email-in-the-cloud package.

Then, the VA will up the roll-out to 600,000 mailboxes to save what it hopes will amount to about $85 million in maintenance fees, support staff and aging hardware it will no longer need.

I hope other organizations regardless of sector are paying close attention.

Everyone wants to save a buck, of course. And email is usually one of the first applications to be considered for the cloud, perhaps because Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Amazon have been offering free Web-based email to the public for so long.

There’s this perception that it’s easy. But it’s not as easy as many think.

The email infrastructure of large and regulated organizations, for instance, are tied to directory-driven policy enforcement, routing, and core infrastructure for hundreds, sometimes thousands of applications and machines that automatically generate email day in and day out.

Trying to move some email to the cloud (when it’s even possible) simply isn’t worth the negative ROI or risks associated with security, compliance, and system failure.

Another problem for government, and those in the public sector too, is that the public cloud often fails to meet the tight requirements for encryption, data loss prevention, policy enforcement, compliance, archiving and many other security needs.

And so we watch with great interest as the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration continues its work on the secure, hybrid cloud model they began working on last year.

Some are now starting to stress the wisdom in deploying flexible on-premise/in-cloud hybrids that can support the various deployment options for mailboxes, security, archiving, routing and policy management.

Gartner, while calling cloud email a growth industry reaching 20 percent of the overall enterprise email market by 2017, has also maintained that large, complex and heavily regulated organisations have unique requirements that cannot be entirely fulfilled by cloud-only provisioning. Cloud providers themselves are saying as much.

Perhaps you don’t pay much mind to what these guys have to say about cloud computing. But the National Nuclear Security Administration?

As their CTO says, if it’s enough for a nuclear weapons complex, it’s probably good enough for the rest of us, right?

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