Thinking about trading in your email server for the simplicity of an email hosting service like Rackspace? Outside of evaluating mailbox sizes and Service Level Agreements (SLAs), make sure you evaluate the changes that need to take place in your organization. Here are five things to keep in mind before you switch to email hosting services, plus a worksheet you can use to gather information.
As confident as you may be about the need for an email hosting service, that doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get buy-in on hosted email or the email provider you select. Outside of IT, what other departments, like customer service or sales, have a stake in the email hosting service selection? From each area, identify power users to help build requirements. In doing so, you’ll ensure that you meet everyone’s needs and encourage buy-in on the final decision. After you’ve consulted your team, you can better assess what concerns you need to address.
Review data from your current email system and feedback from your stakeholder review to compile your list of requirements. Use current system analytics and usage stats to determine what you really need (average attachment sizes, inbox space utilization, etc). Along the way, look for ways to streamline systems. If users deal with separate calendar applications, task management systems, and address book programs, add a requirement for a platform that integrates those tasks. What level of mobile access does your business really need? While BlackBerry® push service may be nice, a robust, scheduled mobile sync application may satisfy your company’s mobile demands for less.
Aside from physically moving email data, what other systems and processes would be impacted by a switch to hosted email services? Ensure there are no major steps involved in redirecting auto-replies and system status messages. Resolve any conflicts with email-dependent systems, like customer relationship management (CRM), directories, or website forms. Do application programming interface (API) associations need to be updated to make single sign-on (SSO) or portal pages function properly? Start cleaning out hidden folders, unused email addresses, overloaded spam or junk folders now to avoid filling up your new mailboxes with junk. For remote employees or multiple locations, consider how you’ll implement their new hosted email service. If you have documented processes involving email, like disaster recovery, allow time to review and update them.
Don’t assume users will “figure it out.” Even easy tasks can be complicated by the jolt of moving to a different interface. Whether it’s classroom-based or detailed handouts, provide training to help alleviate user confusion with the new email hosting service. Training should include more than just your end users. Your IT staff and anyone involved in email administration will also need time to familiarize themselves with a new control panel. Even if you’ll be using the same email client with little or no end-user impact, make sure all users know what is going on. Give them a heads up if you’ll be coming to their machine to do individual desktop migrations and suggest they clean out spam and folders.
Email transitions typically go off without a hitch; however, being able to focus on troubleshooting or any issues related to your email hosting transition is important. Review the time frame for implementing the switch. If there are organizational initiatives, like a new website or huge marketing campaign, you don’t want to deal with increased email activity or bandwidth constraints while trying to monitor an email migration. Other things you should consider are upcoming vacation time, holidays, office moves, and any remote staff.
After completing these five steps, you'll be ready to draft a plan for transition to email hosting services. The plan should contain milestones for provider selection, pre-email transition tasks, and any required system maintenance around the switch. Use our Email Hosting Service Planning Guide (PDF) to record all of this information in one place.
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