"Cloud computing," the new buzz-phrase of the tech world is actually an exercise
in common sense for many applications. Eric Knorr, a tech blogger at InfoWorld.com,
asserts hosting a company's e-mail on local servers "is a storage hog, a
time-suck to manage, a compliance liability, and about the least strategic thing
imaginable," and I'm inclined to agree for the most part.
But on which "cloud" should you put your organization's e-mail? IBM Corp. last
week said it would like you to consider LotusLive iNotes, a new service that
will host your e-mail, with your own domain name but without the equipment hassles.
The cost is $3 per user per month, on an annual basis; pay by the month and it's
$3.75 a user. That undercuts, I'm told, Google's Google Apps yearly cost of $50
The idea, said Ramsey Pryor, IBM global offerings manager for the new product, is to
give companies an easy way to handle e-mail and calendaring on an organization-wide
basis. I don't know how high IBM can scale this, but for a company with a few
dozen or even a couple of hundred employees, it seems to make sense.
Since I don't own such a company, my testing of the LotusLive iNotes system
consisted of a "demo" account provided by IBM for me to use. I could add users
and remove them, since I had "administrator" privileges on the account. In
regular use, you'd probably want more than one administrator in an organization.
Setup of an e-mail user is fairly straightforward: click on a Web form and add a
name, create an e-mail address and you're good to go. Contact lists can be
populated either one-at-a-time or in bulk using data in a CSV (comma-separated
value) file. And once you have those contact names in place, merely beginning to
type a name in a "to" or "cc" field will bring up possible choices.
I also like the calendar feature: you can create and schedule group items without
hassle, as well as have your personal items in there, though you might not want to
share these with the rest of the team. Right now, there's no simple export or
synchronization with the calendaring applications on Apple's iPhone or Research in
Motion's BlackBerry, but since the LotusLive iNotes product is Web based, the
Internet browsers on these devices might provide a gateway.
Each mailbox gets 1 Gbyte of storage a year; more storage can be purchased in blocks
of 100 Gbytes each, Mr. Pryor said. According to an IBM announcement, a "30-day
trial of LotusLive iNotes is now available for companies and includes 25 mailboxes
with 1 GB of storage per mailbox. The service and trial [are each] available in
English, Brazilian Portuguese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Simplified
Chinese, Traditional Chinese and Spanish at www.lotuslive.com/en/services/inotes."
Clearly, as mentioned, this is a product intended for businesses and enterprises;
clearly, too, those organizations where security is a key concern may still want to
keep their e-mail on their own servers. But I return to InfoWorld's Mr. Knorr and
his contention that e-mail is a huge resource hog. I see it just about every week
when one account sends me a "box full" notice and I have to delete things and
transfer e-mail from the server to a local device. It's crazy, especially when my
Google Gmail account has about 5.2 Gbytes of data in just under 66,000 messages.
It's huge, yes, but it's also a great resource for me that I don't have to
worry about. Google takes care of the thing for me and, yes, when I need to find
something, I can do so in a matter of seconds using Google's search technology.
My bottom line: you might wish to investigate the LotusLive iNotes solution for your
organization. Your IT people might thank you!
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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.