To cloud or not to cloud: an email marketing perspective
Liam Kelly, senior consulting analyst, L-Soft International
It used to be that IT outsourcing was for small businesses without the resources to maintain their own hardware and staff. Not anymore. Large businesses, small businesses, even state universities and government offices have flocked to cloud-based services for their email. Here are the main reasons why marketers abandon their own data centers for the cloud:
- Deliverability management. Nothing will prompt a marketer to seek help faster than deliverability problems. This is especially true for mid-sized businesses. Smaller businesses rarely run afoul of deliverability issues simply because they don't generate enough email to show up on the radar of email service providers (ESPs). The largest businesses usually employ someone whose job is monitoring deliverability and managing reputation. However, in-between businesses that may generate a million deliveries a month but don't have dedicated staff to manage those deliveries can be in a world of pain.
Many companies turn to a cloud-based service to get their messages to the inbox. The cloud isn't a panacea. You still need to follow best practices like using double-opt-in, removing invalid addresses, and processing sign-offs in a timely manner. Yet moving to the cloud can help with those situations in which you've done everything right but still find your messages getting trapped by spam filters.
- Difficult corporate IT departments. The marketing departments of large companies shop for an outsourced solution because working with their own IT departments is just too difficult. Sometimes it's a question of agility. The IT department may take weeks to get a new system online, while a cloud-based host can do it in hours.
More often it comes down to customer service. A professional email hosting operation must provide you with outstanding customer service, because you pay their paycheck. When working with your own IT staff, you're a captive of the help desk.
- Reduced staffing needs. In most organizations, the greatest operating expense is staff. So if moving to cloud-based services means reducing staffing costs, it's a clear winner. Most ESPs charge on a fee-per-service basis — the more you use the service, the more you pay.
There also are issues of data security and control. Can your data be trusted with a third-party service? Can you reliably synchronize your data in the cloud with your internal network resources?
These are all questions to answer before putting your head in the cloud.