Another Box Bites the Dust

by Colin Berkshire

Colin here.

For as long as I can remember we have operated our own eMail servers. They are the sacred-ist of institutions in out IT department.

You know from my other postings that I am on a campeign to get rid of boxes in our company. Mostly, I hate them because of the labor they entail. They are always causing drama in our organization, they require expensive people, and they are forever needing to be migrated and upgraded which take up my time to plan and approve and question. I don’t have time for them.

We have been experimenting with outsourcing email to a cloud service. There are an infinite number of companies that do this. The one we have been using sporadically in the last five years is FuseMail. As you might guess from our business, a leading reason is that they are cheap. At $2 per month per mailbox they are pretty darn cheap, especially for our smaller locations.

For $2 a month you get something big in terms of per-user storage. I think it is 100 GB per user. They handle all of the back-end stuff. They size and provide the servers, they back them up, they take care of them when they break. We just sit back and pay the bill and get on with running our core business.

I won’t say that their customer service is superb (because it is not). But, their systems seem to work reliably enough, the speed is fast enough, the administration is minimal enough.

All too often we forget about our own internal costs when buying and building and maintaining in-house systems. We justify those systems by talking about all of the customizations and enhancements we can do to meet our unique needs. But those things end up being very expensive in the long run. IT people are increasingly expensive and difficult to hire. And, when they go they take the organization’s knowledge with them. I cringe when I hear of some IT guy in a remote office leaving us.

So the idea of using a service like FuseMail to outsource all of our email is really appealing.

In a previous posting I wrote that the competitive advantage we have by operating in Asia is really no longer the cheap labor. Many things cost more in Asia than in the US. (For example, office space and real-estate are definitely more expensive.) The advantage we have is by thinking smarter and by being more clever. My stateside counterparts are forever in committee studying and planning and managing infrastructure. Everything with them must be big and grand and planned. In contrast, in Asia things are frequently nimble. We make a decision and we do it.

We are certainly on a path to eliminate expensive and technically complex boxes. PBXs are being replaced by cloud services. eMail is becoming a cloud service rather than an in-house server (I think.) I am hell-bent on killing those dang-nabbit PC boxes (replacing them with iPads and Mac Minis.) Buy the time we are done here I think we will have cut much of our IT overhead by more than half.

And, by cutting overhead we remain competitive as a company.

Now, let’s see what other boxes I can find that are taking up our time. Maybe I can expunge them as well.