A handy guide on how to select between Centralized Mail Server and Distributed Mail Server

A distributed organization can setup its messaging infrastructure in a consolidated setup or a distributed setup. The decision between consolidation versus distribution depends on a lot of factors. However the main consideration will be the network and administrative infrastructure available.

This article details the prerequisites, advantages and disadvantages of each setup to help you decide on which architecture would suit your organization the best. The possible options are:

  1. Consolidated setups in which all mail servers are hosted at the corporate data center at one location.
  2. A distributed architecture in which every branch has its own mail server that talks to the central mail server at the corporate data center.
  3. A mixed architecture in which branch servers are installed only in those locations which do not have sufficient connectivity to the data center or the mailing requirements at this branch are special.

CENTRALIZED MAIL SERVER
Pre-requisites for when to go for a consolidated setup

The following conditions are conducive to having a centralized mail server setup.

  1. Presence of a corporate data center with 24/7 administrations.
  2. Availability of adequate computing power and storage in the data center.
  3. High speed Internet connection with suitable redundancy.
  4. Sufficient bandwidth on the WAN connections to the remote branches. The bandwidth on each WAN link required will depend on all the applications running on the same and on the mail traffic and mail protocols used.
  5. A large number of branches geographically distributed with the average number of users at each branch not enough to warrant the setting up of a remote mail server.
  6. Lack of administrative resources with sufficient knowledge to manage remote mail servers.

Advantages

  1. The server topology is simplified.
  2. The Mithi Connect Server servers can be administered centrally and thus reduce administrative costs.
  3. Mail Servers and other hardware devices are used optimally.
  4. A centralized data center can increase scalability and availability.
  5. With a fewer target servers; there are fewer security issues.
  6. Easier to manage mail archiving and other compliance related issues as all mail pass through the central servers.
  7. Easier to keep the mailing system up-to-date as it is easier to upgrade and patch central servers.

Limitations

  1. As the end users will access their mailboxes on the central server via the network, the user experience will directly depend on the speed and availability of a connection between the branch and the data center.
  2. The network traffic between branches and the data center will increase. The traffic will be more when users access their mailboxes using the web mail client or a desktop email client. In case of access using a desktop email client, the traffic load will be more in case the client makes an IMAP connection to the server, as opposed to a POP connection.
  3. When moving from a distributed setup to a consolidated setup, the network traffic will increase substantially due the traffic generated by moving mail boxes from the branch servers to the central servers
  4. WAN bandwidth is utilized to transfer mail from one user to another even in the same branch.

DISTRIBUTED MAIL SERVER
Pre-requisites for when to go for a distributed setup

The following conditions are conducive to having a distributed mail server setup.

  1. A small number of branches with enough number of mail users at each branch to warrant a local mail server.
  2. Adequate administrative resources at the branches.
  3. Insufficient bandwidth capacity between the data center and branches.
  4. Messaging requirements at a particular branch are high.

Advantages

  1. De-centralized administration.
  2. Low bandwidth usage on the corporate WAN.
  3. Faster mail deliveries for messages between users in the same branch.

Limitations

  1. Higher administrative resources required at the branches.
  2. More security issues as the number of servers is more.
  3. Slower updates and upgrades to the mailing system.
  4. Backup and mail archiving to be done at individual branches.

Why Hybrid Email Solutions Are Becoming More Popular

According to Forrester report (North America and Europe Email Architecture Online Survey), 56% of the companies prefer a hybrid of on-premise and external email services is the most preferred option.

While, the biggest benefit of cloud-based email services is that it is cheaper than running your email on-premise. Security, full control over data and process along with customization and integration with other systems are the main reasons why enterprise choose on-premise email setup.  The hybrid approach, however, sees a vendor giving customers the best of both worlds by allowing them to maximize the benefits of both a hosted delivery model and those of the on-premise model.

The key however to finding a balance between both delivery models is to adapt according to the business’s needs. And while security, availability and flexibility have a role to play in arriving at the correct mix, the most important role is played by the mix of users in an organisation.

In any organization small, medium or large there exists three distinct type of Users:

  • Management Team (mobile users requiring 24×7 access to email)
  • Back office staff (desktop users with mostly office use)
  • Field staff (mobile users with intermittent use).

The only variable being the number or count of users profile in each category depending on the Type and Size of an organization.

One size does not fit all…simply put a purely hosted or On Premise setup (Proprietary or OSS) based product will either end up in very high costs or in compromising on the performance.

Therefore a Hybrid setup that combines any two approaches offers the best solution that makes business, security and technical sense.

Opening address of Mr. Tarun Malaviya in the 2nd Collaboration Retreat 2011

Following is the full text of the speech delivered by Tarun Malaviya (Co-founder and CEO at Mithi) during Collaboration Retreat 2011 event held on 23rd and 24th September 2011 at Pune (India).

—-

So how are you all this morning? Hope you all had a good nights rest. We are very happy to have you all with us.

A very warm welcome to you all to this second edition of the Collaboration Retreat. We started this program last year with the idea of creating a platform for exchange of ideas on Collaboration and it’s impact on the enterprise.

We hope to have this meet every once a year. We hope to grow it both in scope and size as we go along but more importantly improve it continuously. I stand assured of that with your support.

We will speak less and the objective of it will only be to set the context for the talks ahead.

We will mostly talk of the ideas, experiences and learnings that are shaping our thinking and in turn the value we create for you.

We also talk about this to share with you our learning from across the wide range of customers.

But, this is your conference and you are the people whom we want hear more from. We already know what we have to say.

This year, we have broadened the theme to cover a little more of the collaboration landscape. We’re getting a little bolder, you see.

We want it to be useful to you as much as we see it as an opportunity for us to learn from you. We are of course available to you to talk about anything in particular that you may want to.

We would like to stay clear of conceptual acrobatics and stay with our real experiences and what is readily useable and useful to us.

But we’re at a retreat and we’d like to take things a little easy and take a broader swipe at things.

As I had talked about last year, we believe that collaboration and not competition is the better way of progress for business and for the human society in general. We feel that gaining the collaboration advantage is more important than gaining the competitive advantage. Competition is overrated as a means to progress. We don’t think others must lose for us to grow.

Look at this event e.g. it would not have been possible if our team was locked in a competitive battle amongst themselves. They had to collaborate to get this done. Every human enterprise is a collaborative endeavor. Everywhere I look, I find collaboration at work.

There is too much of a contest going on between the customer and the supplier, amongst team mates and even amongst husbands and wives. When clearly, the competitive advantage rests with the wives. And when collaboration can win the day for you.

If you compete too much you’ll die. The more you collaborate the more you might live. For sure, you will live an easier life.

Let’s take some examples.

Last year, I talked about collaboration technology as an alternative to travel. Let’s see what our experience has been on it so far.

Last year e.g. we saved more than Rs 10 lacs and countless hours on travel for our sales department alone using collaboration technology. It might look like a small saving to many but it constitutes nearly 60% of our travel costs that were already compressed by delivering services over the net.

By choosing to do sales and services over the net using collaboration tools we are also expanding our reach to a wider geography and creating a capability to scale at low costs. But it is not all an unmixed blessing. We may have lost some sales as a result of not meeting some customers face to face. So we need to adjust a little bit may be we need to use local partners to provide the personal touch and learn to use these tools better to engage with customers over the net. Like e.g. by making our product available for free evaluation over the net.

Or e.g let’s take, the CIOs Dilemma of Lower Cost versus the Assurance of an established brand, that we talked of last year.

Here, our experience has been that there are distortions in the economy introduced by a lack of adequate education infrastructure that are pushing things in an unnatural direction. Unavailability of trained manpower is resulting in a shrinking in-house IT team that in turn is pushing customers into expensive outsourcing and branded purchase. The result is a loss of flexibility. We feel this is detrimental to longer term costs.

Loss of flexibility can mean higher costs in the future. Maybe investing a little more in training to right size the in-house IT team is in order, to help retain this flexibility.

India’s special advantage is frugality. Just as Technology is for the West and Quality for the Far east. That frugality, comes from keeping our means of production cost low. We as business leaders have the responsibility to protect this special advantage.

My task is to cheer you all up for the day so I hesitate to bring in depressing news. But let me do it anyway.

With a 1.5 trillion dollar stimulus and a negative real rate of interest having failed to kick start the American economy, many economist have started to talk of a brewing second financial crisis. Managing costs therefore become increasingly important. But more important than the cost of IT and Collaboration infrastructure, is the use of collaboration to reduce overall costs and build greater adaptability for the enterprise.

The last bail out itself was a collaborative effort between the G20 nations. Surely a lot of emails and SMSes must have been exchanged to get it done.

We talked about Collaboration being the infrastructure for the 21st century and the unsustainability of the transportation as the infrastructure for future growth. Petrol has moved from about Rs 50 a year ago to 71.92 rupees a litre today and it is still subsidized to the extent of Rs 41,000 crores plus. For the enterprise it means higher costs of travel and transportation. Clearly we’re moving towards where the old patterns of growth cannot be sustained.

In about the same period the online audience grew by about 40% and e-commerce by about 120%. Much of this commerce is supported by collaboration technologies in one form or the other.

It’s not that travel and transportation will disappear, but collaborative transportation and travel will grow more rapidly.

I am reminded of an interesting anecdotal evidence on this.  On how people are using collaboration to overcome such constraints. It’s not Nano that makes cars within easy reach of the lower middle class it is collaborations. Many lower middle class families today buy cars on loan and put it up on rent over the weekdays. Weekends are when the family can use the car for going to the movies and outings. With large and joint families, collaboration and not Nano provides the solution. The cost of petrol and the car is shared between the family and a large number of customers.

Infact the family might be having the cake and eating it too. Making money in return.

These family don’t have a home office they have a phone office. Collaborating over phone calls and SMSes to run their business.

As I said before, we’re not here to make a sales pitch for our product. We can leave that for another day.

We’ll of course be talking about ourselves but mostly about what we’re learning in terms of the purchase preferences of our customers, how they are organising themselves to deliver collaboration services to their enterprise, and perspectives that are shaping our product and services.

We will be doing all this in a newer format this year which will unfold as the day progresses.

Few things however I’d like to mention here –
1. We’ve organized a set of Kiosks in the adjacent hall which showcases some of the upcoming enhancement around Connect Server.
2. We’ll be unveiling a new case study today.
3. We will be conducting a brief survey to access the trends in collaboration infrastructure in Indian enterprises. We’ll be sharing the findings of this survey with you.
4. Lastly, an edited version of the proceedings of this program will be available on the net after seeking the required permissions from the speakers and their organizations.

I hope you will find this event useful.

I hope we can work even better together and grow together.

We should finish in good time so we don’t eat too much into your weekend.

Have a nice day. Thank you.


[Check out highlights of Collaboration Retreat 2011, here]

Keynote address of Mr. Tarun Malaviya in the 1st Collaboration Retreat 2010

[Following is the full text of the speech delivered by Tarun Malaviya (Co-founder and CEO at Mithi)  during Collaboration Retreat 2010]

First of all let me extend a heart felt gratitude to you all for having taken the time out to make it to this retreat.

There is a reason why we are calling this a collaboration retreat and not a Mithi’s CIO Meet or some such thing. The purpose is something bigger than just promoting our product and services.

We are at a retreat…though the setting is more like that of offices here…So we can afford to take a little less ‘nose on the grind stone’ view of things and little more of an idealistic and open view, in the hope that we can learn from it in a way that makes our everyday work better.

Change comes slowly, a day at a time. So what we’ll be discussing here isn’t just going to happen by the next weekend. But if you look behind and look ahead and look around, we see that such thing are indeed happening.

I’ll try to keep things as grounded in everyday reality that we face today as possible.

I want to start by saying that there is too much emphasis placed on Competition as a way to succeed in life and in business. So what we’d like to discuss here is the less often discussed way of ‘collaboration’ as a way to succeed.

Collaboration has always existed in all of Life’s history. And there will always be need for collaboration. Much of the success of the human race and indeed that for many a species on our planet has been the result of collaboration.

Collaborating is perhaps the only way to find enduring solutions. As societies and businesses evolves and become more complex and interdependent, collaboration perhaps is the only way to find solutions that don’t run into other people’s interests and end up in exhausting conflicts.

Collaboration is the only way to do bigger things – the joint stock company, the Public-Private Partnership, the supply chain, the value networks, the wiki, the projects, the standards, open source software, etc. are all examples of collaboration.

Indeed any enterprise is a collaboration at work.

Collaboration is the 21st century infrastructure. If we think of the 20th century as having been built on the transportation infrastucture, 21st century is likely to be build around collaboration infrastucture.

Collaboration is the fourth generation of productivity tools using computing technologies (After Computing, Office Productivity & Process Automation).

Collaboration handles the exceptions in the business flow and exceptions are a majority.

Substituting travel and transportation with Collaboration technologies can make for a greener world.

Therefore, to you as users of collaboration technology there lies ahead a big opportunity to reduce costs, improve productivity, improve response, build greater adapability etc. (all translating to greater sustainability for your enterprise).

To us it offers a long running opportunity to contribute, to work in and to earn our living. We’re not just about a piece of software, but about the collaboration way

So let me now turn briefly to the nature of collaboration Infrastructure and the work involved

Like any other infrastructre, collaboration infrastructure goes through – creation-maintenance and renewal cycle (not just of the software but the hardware and underlying and overlying systems)

Like any other infrastructure, it needs to interface with other infrastructure systems.

Like any other infrastructure, collaboration infrastructure is multiple layered

  • Context -the Purpose of Collaboration
  • Physical Infrastructure which comprises of the Network, Servers, Storage, VMs, Cloud, Devices.
  • Services which comprise of Directories, Services, Database, Security systems.(What)
  • Channels / Applications which could be Email, Chat, Calendar, SMS, Contacts, Portals.

Like every other infrastructure, there is segmentation of needs.

Like building and managing any other infrastructure, there are risks, complexities, costs and opportunities.

Our overriding objective will be to help our customers deal with the different aspects of building and managing this infrastructure and benefit from changes happening at different points in the collaboration technology landscape.

Lastly, let me quickly turn to an example to explain exactly how we are going to be of help to you.

CIOs today face a dilemma of choice between –
– Sophistication of Proprietary Software solutions and the lower cost offered by OSS solutions
and between
-Flexibility of Inhouse deployment and Convenience of a Hosted solution

To enable CIOs to deal with such a situation we are helping them create a hybrid system that uses a combination of proprietary solutions with lower cost OSS solutions and Hosted services.

The users are divided amongst the different systems based on the segmentation of the user needs.
The result is a substantial saving in cost without compromise on features or flexibility.

In order to help create more such solutions, we are continuously adding in our systems the capacity for

Step 1 – Easy Installation & Management
Step 2 – Easy Connection  &
Step 3 – Easy Change

What it allows us to do is build a Lego like system around open standards that can be put together in various different combinations to device solutions specific to the needs of an enterprise.

I want to conclude by saying that, we understand that we are not alone, several companies across the world offer alternative products and services to serve the collaboration needs of an enterprise. But what we have chosen to do is to distinguish ourselves in creating collaboration solutions that are – more Affordable, Useful and Easy to Use.

Thank you for your patient hearing!

I’m quite sure you will find the day’s events to follow informative and useful.

What it means to be Apple – Part 2

Products before Profitability -
When describing his period of exile from Apple — when John Sculley took over — Steve Jobs described one fundamental root cause of Apple’s problems. That was to let profitability outweigh passion: “My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products. The products, not the profits, were the motivation. Sculley flipped these priorities to where the goal was to make money. It’s a subtle difference, but it ends up meaning everything.”When he returned, Jobs completely upended the company. There were thousands of layoffs. Scores of products were killed stone dead. He knew the company had to make money to stay alive, but he transitioned the focus of Apple away from profits. Profit was viewed as necessary, but not sufficient, to justify everything Apple did. That attitude resulted in a company that looks entirely different to almost any other modern Fortune 500 company. One striking example: there’s only one person Apple with responsibility for a profit and loss. The CFO. It’s almost the opposite of what is taught in business school. An executive who worked at both Apple and Microsoft described the differences this way: “Microsoft tries to find pockets of unrealized revenue and then figures out what to make. Apple is just the opposite: It thinks of great products, then sells them. Prototypes and demos always come before spreadsheets.”  -James Allworth (HBR Blog Network)

Do What is Right -
During Apple’s memorial service for Jobs, Cook said the following about Jobs to the audience: Among his last advice he had for me, and for all of you, was to never ask what he would do. “Just do what’s right.” Jobs’ intention was that the company should avoid the fate of Disney after the death of its founder, where “everyone spent all their time thinking and talking about what Walt would do.”

Hardwork  -
Steve worked at what he loved. He worked really hard. Every day. He was never embarrassed about working hard, even if the results were failures. If someone as smart as Steve wasn’t ashamed to admit trying, maybe I didn’t have to be. – Mona Simpson (Steve Jobs sister).

Beautiful Later -
His philosophy of aesthetics reminds me of a quote that went something like this: “Fashion is what seems beautiful now but looks ugly later; art can be ugly at first but it becomes beautiful later.” Steve always aspired to make beautiful later. He was willing to be misunderstood. –  Mona Simpson (Steve Jobs sister).

References:

  • http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/10/steve_jobs_solved_the_innovato.html
  • http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2011-11-01/news/30346113_1_steve-jobs-olivetti-computers/3
  • http://crave.cnet.co.uk/laptops/jobs-told-cook-dont-ask-what-would-steve-do-50005798/