The Mail2Cloud Blog

Email and Data Sprawl - Governing the Ungovernable

Alexis Panagides & Marcelo Marmol - August 1, 2017
At the Center of Data Sprawl sits Email:

convenient, unprotected, and everywhere

A persistent and increasingly pressing challenge for many organizations is data sprawl. As computational power decentralized from the mainframe, to the desktop, to the mobile phone in everyone's pocket, so has the flow of information. Today's organizations have the impossible task of securing and governing corporate data that can be virtually anywhere. Furthermore, the proliferation of content has significant ramifications on IT infrastructure costs, both in terms of storage and network resources. Partly in response to these many challenge, cloud storage services are enjoying explosive growth (Magic Quadrant for Content Collaboration Platforms, Gartner, July 2017). Cloud storage, or now termed "cloud content platforms", enable near ubiquitous access to information from a single, controllable repository.

That which was left behind

But despite the great promise of data consolidation, one key technology resists change and anchors to the ground the efforts of many organizations of fully benefiting from the new cloud paradigm. That technology is email, often the most widely used technology in the organization.

"And, as amoebas, you'll have no problems recruiting other sales reps ... just keep dividing and selling, dividing and selling." - The Far Side

If data sprawl has a culprit, email would be a prime suspect. Much of the problem of data sprawl can be traced back to how email works and how it is used. What many people don't realize is how email multiplies within the organization, much like a bacteria.

A typical email is sent to one or more recipients. Each recipient of an email receives a full copy of the message plus any attachments. Furthermore, another copy is made for each device the user accesses the email from. In today's world of mobility that may mean a desktop, laptop and a mobile device. Add to the individual recipient's copies, other copies made for redundant email servers, backup systems, email archives, and ancillary systems like a CRM that may also require the message - a single email to a couple people might multiply three to five times per recipient.

Further exacerbating email proliferation is user habit. A common practice in the workplace is to Cc (copy) several additional recipients, even when the email topic is not directly relevant to the receiver. In an internal test carried out by leading electrical supply company, Crescent Electric, an email with an attachment was sent out to everyone in the company. Tracking the attachment, Crescent recorded that only 6% of recipients actually downloaded the file. (Box webinar)

Email multiplies across the Organization

The hard costs of email sprawl

Email adds up in the Organization

More than a security concern, the severe data proliferation caused by email also has a significant impact on IT costs, particularly related to storage and network consumption. The data indicates that the average number of emails sent and received by the corporate user is around 270 per day, with 68 of those having attachments. The average size of an email with an attachment is estimated at 540Kb (Email Statistics Report, Radicati). Without any of the aforementioned email replication, the average corporate user is consuming around 42Mb in storage and network per day. If we take a conservative estimate of 4 copies of any particular message within the enterprise (redundant email servers, backup systems, recipients in copy, etc.), that means an average user is consuming around 168Mb of storage and network bandwidth per day or 3.4Gb per month (20 work days). Even at the best price points, it is little wonder why email storage is a significant cost center for the enterprise, particularly those with on-premises email infrastructure.

Cloud to the Rescue

Extending cloud content management to email seems to be an obvious solution, but in practice it is a challenge. First, users must remember to send attachments as cloud storage links. This is not always practical and requires training and more effort than just sending a normal attachment. Second, a company can't enforce cloud storage usage on emails received.

"Extending cloud content management to email seems to be an obvious solution, but in practice it is a challenge."
Replacing attachments with Cloud Links

To help address the problem, MxHero developed Mail2Cloud. Mail2Cloud is a server side solution that automatically and intelligently replaces emails attachments, sent and/or received with cloud storage links. The concept is simple but the benefits are significant.

By replacing attachments with cloud storage links, email sizes drop from many megabytes to only a few kilobytes. In the aforementioned Box webinar, Crescent Electric presented a study that showed for a single email with a 2Mb attachment sent to everyone in the company, the costs of storage dropped from $140 to only $0.80 if the attachment were delivered as a cloud link (Box webinar).

In addition, unlike regular attachments, cloud storage links can be secured and governed, controlling data sprawl either by requiring authentication or otherwise limiting access, for example, establishing 7 day link expiration, greatly reducing the vulnerability of breached systems or lost devices.

Crescent Electric storage savings from replacing an attachment with cloud storage link for a single email sent to everyone in the company

Having the best of both worlds

The best thing about server-side technologies like Mail2Cloud is that no change was required on the part of the end user. For the end user, no software needs downloading, no installation is required, and every device is supported whether a desktop or mobile device. The user only benefits from the ability to send larger attachments, track delivery and control access.

Email is here to stay for the foreseeable future. But we don't need to continue to live with its inherent shortcomings. With judicious integration of emerging technologies, like cloud storage, email can continue to be the familiar and vital tool we have come to rely on, while having far more security and governance, and much less cost.

About mxHero

MxHero builds powerful cloud and hybrid platforms for Enterprise & SMB, enabling email systems to leverage modern cloud storage benefits and gain user productivity across all user devices. The Mail2Cloud platform delivers compelling ROIs in storage costs, collaboration, productivity and security and includes an intelligent, customizable engine for advanced automation. Mail2Cloud is commercially proven across Microsoft Office 365, Exchange, and Gmail, over all mobile device platforms and cloud storage systems.