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Amazon’s WorkMail Is Late to the Party

It’s not David and Goliath. It’s David, without a slingshot, battling a Goliath who has recently beaten David’s more popular brother Google Apps.

The launch of Amazon’s WorkMail makes perfect sense on paper. It should have an offering in the enterprise email server market – its rivals have been in it for years. The trouble for Amazon is that it’s incredibly late and it looks like it has no stand out features. To make matters worse for Amazon, Microsoft unquestionably leads the world in the provision of enterprise email inboxes – both in on-premises Exchange and now in the cloud with Office 365.

Underdog: the trouble for Amazon is that WorkMail is incredibly late and has no stand out features.

Underdog: the trouble for Amazon is that WorkMail is incredibly late and has no stand out features.

Of course, high-profile security breaches such as Sony and Target have heightened the interest of enterprises in the security of their email services. Encryption for email in transit is growing in importance and reflects the critical importance email plays in business, but this is not the be-all and end-all of securing email from snooping eyes, legitimate or otherwise.

Businesses need to be thinking about making their email safe beyond the actual inbox and transit encryption. This is where third-party cloud service providers for email security, archiving and continuity, like Mimecast, come in.

Businesses also have to consider carefully how best to deploy their business critical services in the cloud era – the answer certainly isn’t relying on one vendor for everything. Amazon, Google or Microsoft for that matter. On the other hand, you don’t want a myriad of vendors or you’ll be left paying for, and managing, all this additional technology in the cloud, very much like you are doing on-premise now.

The news about WorkMail doesn’t change this fundamental challenge.

Unseating Microsoft from its position as enterprise email server of choice, with more than 300 million Exchange inboxes out there, will take some revolutionary ideas. Competition is a good thing, of course. Even though we’ve been supporting email services from Google and Microsoft for years, we will look closely at how WorkMail does in the market.

That said, my first assessment of WorkMail from news reports suggests that its basic offering of encryption and calendars, however priced or packaged, won’t be the revolutionary spark Amazon needs to unseat the entrenched competition potentially even within AWS’ own customer base.

But didn’t they say that about David’s chances against Goliath? No, scratch that. This time the big dog does win.

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2015 Signals the Return of the Security Imperative

This time last year futurologists were predicting the gentle evolution of the Big Data trend. Few would have predicted how dramatic the resurgence of security has been.

Sure, there was a drumbeat of public security breaches like Snowden in play, but the flurry of large-scale breaches in 2014 such as Target, JP Morgan, Home Depot and Sony have fundamentally tipped the balance of where security sits in the planning process for IT teams for the coming few years. It was my central point in the BBC 2015 predictions article you may have seen last week.

Email Security

Organizations should reduce reliance on technology solely for security and need to focus on making employees part of the solution – a shared security responsibility.

These breaches were the culmination of months of research and work by the attackers. However, as attackers refine their tools, techniques and processes, breaches will occur in greater numbers and with increasing speed and frequency – the outcome of the growing Crime-as-a-Service industry. In response, larger companies will begin to remove point security solutions and instead aim to provide a broader, more holistic view of their overall security posture.

But it’s not just large organizations under attack. Smaller companies will be increasingly targeted to be used as ‘springboards’ to gain entry to the companies they provide services for or have relationships with. Advanced threats usually equate to more IT investment, and to balance their books smaller companies will continue to look to consolidate vendor security services.

These landmark breaches have also highlighted that all organizations will be forced to reduce their reliance on technology solely for security and will focus on more effective ways to make the employees part of the solution – a shared security responsibility.

There are, of course, other trends to consider in 2015 – wearable tech is now becoming refined, affordable and the consumer has a myriad of choices as a quick glance at CES news shows. These devices will drive an uptick in requests to make corporate information accessible through apps on new types of mobile platforms.  As the perimeter becomes even less defined, organizations will need to reassess their security processes and technologies to compensate.

Something fundamental changed last year. We’re in the midst of the Big Data era, powered by cheap storage, new grid-computing technology and maturing adoption by users. However, now more than ever, we’re reminded of the risks presented by our valuable data falling into the wrong hands.

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Making Office 365 Even Better

Microsoft’s recent earnings (Q1 FY15) highlighted the momentum of Office 365 we’ve been discussing on this blog for some time. The announcement revealed that commercial Office and Office 365 boosted Microsoft’s cloud revenues by 128% to $952 million.

Safer together. Better together. Mimecast provides vital protection for Office 365.

Safer together. Better together. Mimecast provides vital protection for Office 365.

But it’s also been the year when businesses have come to terms with the practicalities of consolidating their critical IT functions with one vendor, even a vendor as established as Microsoft.

Two major Microsoft outages have affected Office 365 customers this year – the Azure outage in November and the email outage on Exchange Online and Office 365 in June. Not that it’s the only cloud vendor to have experienced this problem – services from Google and even Facebook have had similar issues.

It’s a stark reminder that care must be taken to ensure business continuity, as well as security and data integrity risks, are mitigated in the cloud in the same way they were on-premises.

Which is why risk mitigation is so important when CIOs are migrating to Office 365. A cloud continuity plan can counter reliance on just one service that can become a single point of failure for critical services like email. Invariably that plan needs third party cloud services, like Mimecast, to offer the same options that have been common place in the on-premises environment – a blended cloud approach.

Mimecast Services for Office 365 ensure when Office 365 is offline your business’ email keeps working. It also enhances an organization’s security by detecting advanced threats like spear-phishing. In addition, it improves the resilience of critical data, meaning if data is lost or deleted accidentally or with malicious intent it’s fully retrievable. This vital protection for Office 365 helps overcome the remaining hurdles to enterprise adoption of Microsoft’s service.

If you’d like to find out how Mimecast and Office 365 services work better together, click here to download our free report and view a webcast of our CTO Neil Murray discussing the risks of a move to Office 365 and how to tackle them.

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Microsoft Azure Outage: A Reminder That All Cloud Services Need Backup

Last week Microsoft Azure suffered a major outage, disrupting many enterprises worldwide that had shifted their workloads to Microsoft’s public cloud, including companies who have upgraded to Office 365.Mimecast Continuity Services

The cloud skeptics are already gathering to tell these companies they shouldn’t have moved to the cloud, but ask the IT managers of LAN-based services whether they ever have had unplanned downtime and of course the answer is yes. So what’s the answer to the downtime conundrum?

The simple solution is to treat the cloud with the same level of respect that we’ve been treating our on-premises systems for decades…are your core services, like email, so important that your business cannot do without them?

If the answer to that question is ‘yes’, and it usually is, then you should go for a blended-cloud approach.

Despite the fact that these events will be frustrating and disruptive for Microsoft customers (or Google or any other service for that matter) it’s still no reason to stop plans to move to the cloud, or retreat to the shelter of the LAN. However, this incident should be a trigger for IT teams to check they are being careful about what core cloud service they choose and then how they protect it.

When you move critical services and data, like email, to the cloud, you must also plan for the inevitability that at some point the service will most likely go down – just as you would with business continuity solutions on your own infrastructure if you kept them in-house.  With Mimecast services you keep employees’ email up and running, and keep them productive even in the event of an outage.

What happens when the cloud service goes down? Every IT leader should be able to answer that question immediately and show their continuity strategy. A strategy based on planning and technology, not hope.

For more information about Mimecast cloud email continuity services please click here.