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A Crucial Choice of Email Servers: Cloud-based vs. On-premises

A Brief History of Email

Today, we all use emails on a day-to-day basis and consider them to be one of the most useful and popular services on the internet. However, it is interesting to know that email in fact precedes the internet.

The first email is considered to be a program called “MAILBOX” used on computers at MIT all the way back in 1965; where users could leave messages for other users who would log onto the same computer.

The famous ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) was developed in 1969 by the US Department of Defense. It consisted of a network connecting a large number of computers across the department. On October 29th, 1969, at 10:30 pm PST, the first message was sent between two computers on the ARPANET. This is what the message looked like:

first-email-ever

In 1971, Ray Tomlinson invented a network email system on the ARPANET, which is the first electronic mail as we know it today. By 1976, 75% of all ARPANET traffic consisted of emails, and ideas began to form about extending this functionality to the outside of the ARPANET. These ideas became the building blocks for the creation of the INTERNET.

Email Servers Today

Historically, email messages were stored on every organization’s own servers. However, today companies are no longer limited to their own servers for being able to have their email service. Cloud servers are a new way of providing the same services without having the internal hardware and staff to maintain an email server. Nonetheless, both solutions offer their advantages and disadvantages and remain popular among different groups of corporations.

Cloud vs On-premises

So emails have been around for decades and have been reliable, affordable, and efficient means of communication and even marketing, however, the choice between having cloud-based or on-premises servers remains challenging. It is important to consider the specific needs of your company when evaluating each solution. Here we mean to do a brief comparison of the two technologies in order to give you a better insight into the two solutions.

Cloud Deployment

When considering cloud storage, it is important to look at the way it stores data. Cloud storage uses external servers managed by another company which can lead to some advantages and drawbacks.

Pros

  • Less time and work needed for data management: Since the storage is managed by an external company, there is a smaller workload on your staff. 
  • Less upfront cost: Typically, you need a larger initial investment for setting up an on-premises storage. Cloud storage is instead less costly upfront and will usually be based on a monthly subscription payment.
  • Automatic regular backups: In a cloud-based storage system you don’t have to worry about backing up your data or losing local copies of files as the managing company will usually take care of regular backups.

Cons

  • Fast internet connection is a necessity: Since you will be connected to your data via the internet, having a slow or unreliable connection will mean a bad user experience in working with your data.
  • Higher total costs: While an on-premises solution will have a higher upfront cost, in most cases the total cost of using a cloud-based storage is higher. As cloud services are based on consumption, the more storage your company requires, the higher the cost; and this can accumulate faster than one would anticipate.
  • An internet outage means no access to your data: Relying on internet connection for data storage would mean that access to your important files can become impossible at the time of necessity in case there is an outage or problem in your internet connection.
  • Legal litigation: In case of a legal dispute, law enforcement authorities could issue a search warrant to your cloud supplier and access your most sensitive data without your consent.  
  • Security flaws: probably the most important consideration to take when thinking about using cloud-based storage is data vulnerability. When trusting your data with another company, you might be giving access to unauthorized personnel. It is important to know about the company’s security practices and how your data is encrypted. Using a cloud-based storage system would also make your data more vulnerable to hackers, as each connection between you and the cloud supplier, plus the connections between different servers of the cloud supplier, especially if they are located at distant places (thus connected via internet), would create a potential vulnerability for data breach.

To read more about this and find out the roots of such issues, you can read

On-premises Deployment

While using on-premises storage, your data relies on your own company’s infrastructure. You will be using your own equipment and will be in charge of the lifecycle management. This approach has many advantages and disadvantages based on your needs. Below we will discuss some of the most important pros and cons of this solution.

Pros

  • No need for an internet connection to guarantee data access:A major advantage of the on-premises approach is that a connection loss would not mean a lack of access to your data as the data is accessible via your company’s internal network.
  • Ability to choose server hardware based on your specific needs: Being able to customize your server’s hardware based on your company’s specific needs offers you greater flexibility and a potential for quicker access.
  • Better security: As mentioned above, cloud storage might leave your data vulnerable, both to access from unauthorized personnel of the cloud supplier company, and to external threats based on an insecure connection. On-premises storage instead is completely restricted from anyone but authorized personnel in your company. This can be a very important consideration especially for companies who handle sensitive data.

Cons

  • Extra workload for you IT staff: Using an on-premises solution would require having the right staff for managing and maintaining your servers, which in turn could result in an added cost.
  • Need for a greater upfront investment: As discussed above, implementing an on-premises storage would mean a greater upfront investment as you will need to purchase the needed hardware. This could be an important disadvantage for startups and smaller companies.
  • Risk of data loss: With an on-premises solution, you are responsible for any data backup and security. If not implemented properly, a system malfunction, hardware failure or ransomware attack can cause you to lose important data. A best practice for on-premise storage is to include off-site backups for your data.
  • Scaling the servers could be costly: scaling up your company using an on-premises storage would be more difficult as you will need new hardware and staff to maintain it. In a cloud-based storage instead, you can scale up in a few clicks and buy yourself more storage.

Conclusion

Both cloud-based and on-premises solutions for a company’s email servers remain popular. Choosing one option or the other depends greatly on the type of data and specific needs of each company. Despite cloud-based servers being the newer, more easy-to-use option, on-premises servers have advantages that are sometimes downplayed in the middle of the hype for new technology. On-premises servers remain attractive especially for bigger organizations or organizations dealing with sensitive data as the more secure, controlled option.

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