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How to Improve the Reliability of Cloud-based Email

Level 13

By Omar Rafik, SolarWinds Senior Manager, Federal Sales Engineering

Here’s a helpful article on how to achieve your cloud-first objectives for cloud-based email. Email is a critical application for government, and there are several suggestions for improving reliability.

The U.K. government’s Cloud First policy mandates the need to prioritize cloud-based options in all purchasing decisions—and email providers are no exception to this rule. The rationale is clear: to deliver “better value for money.” Cloud-based email can help with this—offering huge operational benefits, especially considering the sheer number of users and the broad geographical footprint of the public sector. It can also be much simpler and cheaper to secure and manage than on-prem email servers.

However, while email services based in the cloud can offer a number of advantages, such services also pose some unique challenges. IT managers in the public sector must track their email applications carefully to help ensure cloud-based email platforms remain reliable, accessible, and responsive. In addition, it’s important to monitor continuously for threats and vulnerabilities.

Unfortunately, even the major cloud-based email providers have had performance problems. Microsoft Office 365, a preferred supplier with whom the U.K. government has secured a preferential pricing deal, has been subject to service outages in Europe and in the United States, as recently as late last year.

Fortunately, many agencies are already actively monitoring cloud environments. Sixty-eight percent of the NHS and 76% of central government organisations in a recent FOI request from SolarWinds reported having migrated some applications to the cloud, and using monitoring tools to oversee this. Although monitoring in the cloud can be daunting, organisations can apply many of the best practices used on-prem to the cloud—and often even use the same tools—as part of a cloud email strategy that can help ensure a high level of performance and reliability.

Gain visibility into email performance

Many of the same hiccups that affect the performance of other applications can be equally disruptive to email services. Issues including network latency and bandwidth constraints, for example, can directly influence the speed at which email is sent and delivered.

Clear visibility into key performance metrics on the operations of cloud-based email platforms is a must for administrators. They need to be able to proactively monitor email usage throughout the organisation, including the number of users on the systems, users who are running over their respective email quotas, archived and inactive mailboxes, and more.

When working across both a cloud-based email platform and an on-prem server, in an ideal world, administrators should set up an environment that allows them to get a complete picture across both. Currently, however, many U.K. public sector entities are using four or more monitoring tools—as is the case for 48% of the NHS and 53% of central government, according to recent SolarWinds FOI research. This highlights a potential disconnect between different existing monitoring tools.

Monitor mail paths

When email performance falters, it can be difficult to tell whether the fault lies in the application or the network. This challenge is often exacerbated when the application resides in the cloud, which can limit an administrator’s view of issues that might be affecting the application.

By using application path monitoring, administrators can gain visibility into the performance of email applications, especially those that reside in a hosted environment. By monitoring the “hops,” or transfers between computers, that requests take to and from email servers, administrators can build a better picture of current service quality and identify any factors that may be inhibiting email performance. In a job where time is scarce, this visibility can help administrators troubleshoot problems without the additional hassle of determining if the application or network is the source of the problem.

By applying existing standard network monitoring solutions and strategies to email platforms, administrators can gain better insight into the performance of cloud email servers. This will help keep communications online and running smoothly.

Find the full article on GovTech Leaders.

The SolarWinds trademarks, service marks, and logos are the exclusive property of SolarWinds Worldwide, LLC or its affiliates. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

8 Comments
Level 14

Thanks for the article!

Call me skeptical and jaded, but after thirty years in the I.T. sector I have begun to wonder about certain motives for specific changes.

Sometimes change comes to reduce cost / enhance profit.  Sometimes it's the logical result of reactions to security risks or events.  But sometimes, especially when change apparently brings reduced reliability and increased risk, I begin suspecting third-parties influencing decision makers to select options that only benefit the third-party.

When I read "Cloud First policy mandates the need to prioritize cloud-based options in all purchasing decision", I started wondering about what "cloud first" means.  Apparently it can mean:

  • "Discard historically reliable and secure and well-known in-house solutions in favor of jumping on a new band wagon."  And the band wagon has great potential for less reliability and even greater risk.
  • "Bring more data to areas outside your control, to places you don't own/manage, where it may be accessed without your knowledge.  Where it might be compromised, read, stolen, or adjusted without your awareness."

If you wanted to create a future environment where some hypothetical person or group or A.I. (e.g.: SkyNet) could place AI's or other less-than-wonderful entities in control of information (no matter for good or bad purposes, no matter for better profit or not), you'd start putting all your data where it can be all be reached easily.  And you'd put it in an environment that cannot be controlled/managed/secured as well as you may have historically done within your own data centers.

Here's hoping we never see nation-states or corporate entities (or science fiction aliens or AI's) one day in charge.  That we don't have a SkyNet or Matrix take control as is shown in in some science fiction movies.

I'd like a better world of cooperation and collaboration instead of one in which controlling data is a means for more power for those without conscience, ethics, morals, and altruism.

MVP
MVP

I have a similar mindset to rschroeder

Creating a policy such as "Cloud First" completely misses that point and make technical decisions into govt policy - which means its stupidly difficult to get back from when the next big thing comes along.

The choice isn't cloud is always best.

The choice has to balance cost/function/reliability

So many people now assume the cloud is ALWAYS cheaper - it isn't - its just opex instead of capex.

Maybe its better to say it could be cheaper but also could not.

Level 20

I'm a little concerned about maybe switching to O365 after hearing so many complaints from people here.

Level 13

Thanks for the Article. I've always advocated "Right Size". If the best fit for the application is the cloud then put ti there - If not then don't.

MVP
MVP

Thanks for the article.

Level 16

Thanks for the write up.

Level 12

cloud based emails are more reliable instead of inhouse email servers because cloud emails are backed up regularly and can be moved across cloud factories. so the service is nearly 100% uptime.