As a CIO, when your enterprise email system goes down and brings your organization to a halt, you immediately become the most sought after individual in the world -- in line with Edward Snowden. I know. I've been there when I was CIO for the US Department of Transportation.
Microsoft's software -- Exchange and its new cloud incarnation, Office 365 -- is the gold standard for intra- and inter-enterprise communications. It's one of the most critical systems any organization has, yet few CIOs treat it as such before a calamity happens. I've come across a simple way to address critical concerns associated with Microsoft enterprise email systems.
As business requirements have changed over time, organizations have had to add peripheral software to support their core email system. That software includes a range of security, backup, archiving, e-discovery, and large-file sending products.
Those additions have resulted in interdependent, interconnected systems that are costly and complex to maintain. In addition, IT administrators must consider the challenges of BYOD and cloud software, infrastructure, and platform services.
[How can IT innovators help government agencies? Read Creating A Marketplace For Public-Private Innovations.]
Organizations must design their next-generation email systems with those challenges in mind. Ideally, CIOs would like to use a single product, whereby IT administrators can manage all of these email management services as well as their organization's security, continuity, and archiving policies from a secure, scalable online platform. Is there such a product?
I discovered such a product -- Mimecast -- after leaving the Transportation Department and co-founding GOVonomy, where I took on the challenge of building our next-gen email system on the Exchange/Office 365 core. There are similar competing products from Proofpoint, Symantec, and McAfee.
Mimecast has more than 500 employees and 7,000 customers. Its singular focus is removing the complexity and stress from email system management. It has created its own category of products under the umbrella of unified email management (UEM), including:
Mimecast gateway services scan all inbound and outbound email, performing encryption, data leak prevention, large-file sending, and other functions.
With Mimecast's bottomless cloud archive, accessible directly from Outlook, Exchange administrators no longer must impose mailbox limits. They can set policies to determine how long specific information is stored, streamline the search process during a discovery request, and ensure that important information is always within reach.
Mimecast's gateway service is unique in the way it captures data. It's the point of entry, accepting email on behalf of its customers, and the point of exit, delivering email on behalf of its customers. Email is captured and archived at these points, in real-time.
This setup lets the archive capture not only the standard email data, but also the rich transactional meta data (proof-of-delivery and proof-of-receipt information, as well as all the policies applied). All of this information is held in an encrypted, tamper-proof data store, giving customers a litigation-ready archive.
Should your Exchange system go down -- whether it's a planned or unplanned outage -- Mimecast continues to accept and deliver email, either directly through Outlook, through a Webmail client, or via mobile applications. Mimecast also provides email continuity on all the major mobile platforms: iOS, Android, Windows, and BlackBerry.
Mimecast's cloud-based file archiving solution brings vast amounts of data together into an instantly accessible, compliant archive. With many other offerings, organizations are faced with having data distributed across multiple systems, on multiple sites, and stored both in the cloud and on-premises.
Mimecast continually synchronizes data from the customer's on-premises servers, keeping stored versions consistent and organized. This approach lets Mimecast bring disparate data together in one secure archive that's simple to manage, easy to search, and available to an entire organization.
Mimecast systems, which are operational within days, typically replace multiple systems -- sometimes up to eight to 10 of them. Consolidating systems can reduce maintenance, upgrade, and operational costs, while improving security and functionality.
Mimecast price performance
Forrester Research estimates that Mimecast UEM pays for itself in 12 months and delivers 102% ROI in just three years.
Brian Attas, CIO of the Environmental Defense Fund, told Mimecast: "Our evaluation showed that the TCO for Mimecast would be less than half that of an in-house email system -- primarily because the extra features in Mimecast enabled us to eliminate six servers and associated software licenses, including two Exchange servers. That sealed the deal for us."
Jerry Hook, manager of Windows systems at the University of Tennessee Medical Center, in a company case study, similarly said: "Overall, we estimate that UT Medical Center saved 60% on IT costs with unified email management."
What else can Mimecast improve?
Mimecast users would like to archive and share more of their own local data, not just file shares that are already on the network, but data they have locally with both internal and external users, without having to revert to shadow IT services like Dropbox. By having such a feature and putting the users in control, IT administrators will reduce expensive network file shares, increase accessibility of data, and reduce the opportunity for data leaks.
Nitin Pradhan is a former CIO of the US Dept. of Transportation, founder of Public Private Innovations, and co-founder of GOVonomy, an organization that identifies, assesses, and introduces innovative technology products and services for the public sector. GOVonomy does not invest in companies whose products Pradhan writes about, but it invites companies to submit their innovative products/services for consideration for GOVonomy and future columns.
Moving email to the cloud has lowered IT costs and improved efficiency. Find out what federal agencies can learn from early adopters. Also in the The Great Email Migration issue of InformationWeek Government: Lessons from a successful government data site. (Free registration required.)