The Message Is the Medium: Selecting a Mail System - Page 2

 By Hallett German
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Choosing a messaging system for your company is a major decision that you will need to live with for a long time. Learning as much as you can in advance about your options and company requirements before you choose will avoid potentially costly mistakes. As you read each of the ten steps listed below, can you answer them for your company? Once you have the answers, your decision will be that much easier.

1. Ease of Administration -- Does the system have a low TCO (Total Cost of Ownership)? Automated installs, proactive monitoring/reporting, and logging, virus/spam management, etc. will help make your administration job easier. How many hours need to be dedicated to administrative tasks such as backup, system tuning, message database compression, account/mailbox creations, renames, moves, and deletion each week? Are new skills are required for mail administration? For example, the learning curve for SMTP administrators using sendmail for e-mail operations is extremely high.

2. Scalability -- You will need to create message profiles (how many messages a day, size of attachments, etc.) and simulate the load on the proposed system. Will the system support your growing needs? What is the average messaging load now? Do you anticipate a large increase?

3. Security -- Does the system have authentication checking? Is secure e-mail available using public keys? Can access control list be used to disable/enable user access to various features?

4. Available Features -- Proprietary messaging system will always have more features than a simple POP/IMAP client. How many of them will be helpful to end users? How many will just cause support headaches because they are confusing or allow users to do potentially harmful actions such as deleting their mailbox or e-mailing 1,000 users at once?

5. Integration with other applications -- Can the system integrate with your existing applications such as directories, document management, ticketing systems, newsgroups, workflow, collaboration, calendaring and scheduling etc? Is the integration seamless from the user perspective? Does the application have the ability to send pages, faxes, etc? What format are the messages? Is there a maximum length? Are they automatically routed to the correct persons or is manual intervention required? Can inbound/outbound faxes be tracked separately from the regular e-mail?

6. Mailing Lists -- Do you have a need for extensive mailing lists? Can you add addresses external to your company? Will you as the administrator need to manage them or will you have the users manage their own lists? This can be a very time consuming task for an administrator.

7. Vendor Relationship -- A proprietary solution ties you to one vendor. If that vendor goes out of business or drops the product line, you will be forced to change solutions. Ask anyone who purchased Lotus cc-mail. If you choose an open standard such as POP or IMAP client/server, you can easily replace either the client or server with much less company disruption.

8. Internet Standards Compliance -- Does the system handle present and future Internet standards? What proprietary "additions" to the standards are supported?

9. Archiving -- How far back can you retain messages? How do users retrieve and access these archives?

10. Application Program Interfaces (APIs) -- If you have a very large or specialized requirement you might have need to customize the client. Does the system have the ability to do this?

Next: Internet E-Mail Standards

This article was originally published on Dec 27, 2002
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