Yahoo! - the thinking corporate's email solution

No, really

Google, which doesn't quite seem to be able to get its GMail service into service, has nevertheless changed the email world forever. The threat of its new 1GB service caused other public players like MSN and Yahoo! to up the stakes. Yahoo!, I now contend, should be regarded as a potential corporate IT email solution, having recently upped its mailbox size to 2GB for pay-as-you-go customers, and that's available right now.

OK, you say, so what's that got to do with corporate IT? Well here's the scoop. If you are a cost and service level conscious CIO, have a look at Yahoo!'s business email service offer. Based on its terrific public email service, with tens of millions of users, Yahoo! provides email at less than $1 per month per user. And Yahoo! business email carries no advertisements, or Yahoo! branding - instead it aligns to a corporate domain. In fact, for a small business, Yahoo even include a free domain registration. Pay a few cents more, and Yahoo! will host your business website, and provide you with simple tools to build it. That's $1 per month for the minimum number of users (10), who can then access their email worldwide through a web browser and/or a POP compliant email client like Outlook. Yahoo! also includes junk mail management facilities and scrubs viruses for the $1 per month.

Now, the question this begs is why anyone would build and operate an in-house corporate email service? Especially as an in-house service costs at least ten times as much, and is likely less reliable than Yahoo! And with a 2GB of message storage, there should never be the need for corporate IT to send irritating emails asking users to delete or archive messages because disk capacity has been exceeded. Anyway, let's go quickly through the two standard IT arguments against using a service like Yahoo!'s.

First there's the security bugaboo. In context Yahoo!'s email servers are much better protected that anything operated by a company. This because Yahoo! has the size and expertise and motivation - its integrity is central to its ongoing business survival and success. Assuming a competitor did have the time and the ability to hack into your Yahoo! email, to look at your companies email, they face the huge task of finding their way through the tens of millions of email accounts, and the billions of messages in them. Yahoo! is to messaging as AT&T is to telephone service. In reality you don't build your own telephone systems because the phone company does not encrypt your calls - anybody that has a mind to, can tap your phone or fax. Like the phone, the best security mindset is that irrespective of who operates a public communication system (which any corporate messaging system actually is), it should be considered open to the possibility of eavesdropping. The difference between email and the telephone is that if you want to make email secure (and that should really only apply to a very small number of corporate users) then promote the organizational use of PGP's $70 a seat email security product - its not quite up to national security standards, but its not a long way short either.

Next there is control issues. Well, you can still have someone keep track of allocating and controlling email accounts, and changing passwords of departing folks. The difference being that with Yahoo!, that person does not need to be a dedicated IT operative.

So here's the corporate challenge: add the cost of your email and related servers, email software, technical support and associated networking folks up. If you're using MS Exchange, also add the cost of the Exchange clients. To that total add the cost of the email-related help desk, the email administrators, and the often uncounted disaster recovery process, services and equipment. And to that total add the endless cost of applying and deploying software updates, and the time spent when these go wrong occasionally. Finally, to this sizable total, add the cost of virus software, endlessly deploying it and the additional firewall technical and management support and the associated work and equipment/software. Then divide the overall total cost by your number of email users, and if you come even close to ten times Yahoo!'s $1 cost, you probably have missed a lot of numbers. ®

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