How personal email and the cloud are changing corporate email access

Employees' cloud and personal email accounts help them get work done, but email forwarding and cloud integration could make work tougher for IT.

Email is a tried-and-true friend of IT administrators, but the consumerization movement and users' personal email accounts are beginning to affect the enterprise.

Cloud computing and email are now more linked than ever, and it's not just email forwarding that is to blame. Cloud email services present security, malware and encryption concerns -- and there are even options for users to share files through the cloud in traditional platforms like Outlook.

IT could use sandboxed email clients to help with mobile OS security, but that diminishes some of the functionality. Another way to deal with corporate email and the cloud is to lift some strict inbox and attachment limits. No matter which way you slice it, email is changing and IT has to change with it.

What are the main concerns around cloud email services?

Cloud email services, such as Gmail, are free, easier to use than most corporate email and accessible from anywhere, and they have lenient inbox restrictions. Some employees forward work emails to personal email accounts in the cloud, where it's usually not encrypted. Admins also have to worry about email coming from a personal email account to a corporate one because it can put the network at risk for malware infection. To stop email forwarding, you can put cloud and mobility policies in place, but many users will still take advantage of what cloud email services have to offer. In that case, consider easing your inbox and attachment restrictions.

How does the cloud affect email?

One of the reasons employees forward work emails to personal accounts is that consumer email services usually have higher attachment limits than those for corporate email systems. So, it's easier to share files from a personal email account than from a work one. Services such as Gmail have linked the cloud and email: When a user attaches a file that's bigger than 25 MB, Google prompts the user to upload that file to its Drive cloud service. Then Gmail puts a link to that file in the email instead of the file itself. Other vendors offer this functionality -- for instance, Outlook add-ins can convert attachments to a URL that points to a cloud service.

Why don't users like sandboxed email clients?

Sandboxed email keeps personal and work data separated on employees' mobile devices and makes securing that data easier for IT, but it makes working from those devices more complex. The email clients on mobile OSes share data with other apps on the device. Without a sandboxed email client, corporate information can make its way into unauthorized apps. That's an obvious security concern for IT. Though admins can use sandboxed email to keep the email client from interacting with other apps, it ultimately keeps the mobile OS from operating the way it's meant to.

Will social collaboration and social media kill email?

Experts agree that email isn't dead; it's just changing in the face of social media and collaboration tools. Some people think email and social media will see tighter integration in the near future, and others point out that email trumps social media in some ways by fostering one-on-one communication and allowing file attachment. Email is also great for collaboration, document capture, calendaring, marketing and customer support. Still, many cloud email services can do all that, and they offer collaboration tools. Social likely isn't going to kill email -- they're going to work together.

This was first published in February 2013

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