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.
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.
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