Email Data At Risk!

By Dan Ballard, in , posted: 3-Jun-2015 14:52

There has been a few comments on the Geekzone forum lately about email issues, so I thought I would write an article about it. All the time people are playing Russian Roulette with their emails. Generally all the problems come from people using “Free email services”. Like pop email, imap email, xtra email, Gmail and other free email system.
These free systems are great until something goes wrong!
You may ask what could possible go wrong? Let me tell you.
  1. Your laptop, iPhone, pc or Mac can get stolen
  2. Your hard drive could crash
  3. Your PC can get infected by ransomware
  4. Your webmail account could get hacked
  5. Your PC or laptop is destroyed in a fire or flood or earthquake
It is when something like the above happens that people begin to realise the value of business quality email. Just like the person that decided insurance is a good after the accident. When the unlucky person that finds themselves in any of the above situations, generally are wishing they had a more robust email system that was backed up offsite.

What is wrong with POP or IMAP email?
Pop email was designed for dial up, you know when we first got the internet back in 1999 and you had a 56k screechy dial up modem. Your PC would connect to the internet, then you would open your email client and download your pop emails. You could then disconnect the internet and read your emails and reply. The next time you connect with your screechy modem it would send those replies. POP email was perfect for back then. Now we are always connected to the internet and things are a bit different.

One of the biggest problems amongst others, is that the only place that POP emails exists is on your one device, when you download your email.  Like wise it is the only place it exists when you respond to an email which presents an issue if you have multiple devices.  There is no synchronisation between all your devices. And as anyone that is in IT knows, having important data in one place is just not a good idea.

As a side note, people have their little hacks which involves leaving POP email on their POP email server for 30 days to sync between different devices and have rules to send sent messages to other email accounts but really it turns into a convoluted setup fairly quickly.

What is wrong with Gmail?
Then even with a service which I consider to be very good for being free, Gmail is pretty good. Don’t get me wrong, if someone wants a free email account for emails that are not that important I always recommend Gmail. Edit Gmail does have support for paid customers.  You can also sync contacts, calendar and emails with an additional Outlook plugin.

What is wrong with IMAP?
Imap is ok and is a step in the right direction as it enables emails to sync on multiple devices, however it does not sync contacts and calendar. So I personally don’t bother with it at all.

So which email system do you recommend for business?
If anyone that had read my responses on Geekzone forums knows, I recommend Microsoft Office 365. "Why?" You might say, well many reasons which are listed below.
  • It is amazingly cheap $7.30/month or $6.10/month if you purchase a year in advanced for 50GB of email
  • It syncs emails, contacts and calendars between multiple devices
  • You can upgrade your plan and get the latest copy of Microsoft Office if you don't have Microsoft Office
  • You can share your inbox, contacts and calendars with other staff
  • Microsoft Office 365 has a pretty good support system
  • And most importantly your email data remains in the Microsoft Office 365 email server the whole time
Office 365 Support
I have had to get support for Microsoft Office 365 several times, they have a support ticket system and if you give your phone number someone will call you within a few hours. Brilliant, a real live person to discuss your issue and get it resolved, which is really amazing for a low priced product like this.

Office 365 Downsides
Are there downsides to Microsoft Office 365, well sure there are a few. Your emails are hosted in Microsoft’s datacentre in Singapore, (although I have heard rumors that Microsoft may be setting up a datacentre in Australia.) Which means there is a bit of latency which is not an issue with emails, as if it take a few seconds more to get your emails that is not a big deal.

The only time I would suggest not using Office 365 is if you have highly sensitive emails that you need to keep private, then you would need to spend thousands of dollars setting up your own Microsoft Exchange server, plus licensing, plus backup etc. Of course there is also financial break points when your organisation gets big enough it may make sense to have your own Microsoft Exchange server and that is up to each IT manager to determine for themselves as price and security are not always the major factors in any decision like this.

On summary, I think that most if not all businesses email contains important information that is worth protecting. Really cost should not be a factor as when something goes wrong with free email the consequences are very bad and can be very expensive to fix, if you have ever sent a hard disk for data forensics you will know. For less than the cost of two cups of coffee per month for each staff member can have high quality business email that in a lot of cases increases their productivity and enable you to sleep at night knowing it is just taken care off and is backed up off site.

CyberHub was not paid for this article at all, however CyberHub is a Microsoft Partner.

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Comment by Regs, on 4-Jun-2015 00:13

the Australian Office 365 region isn't a rumour - it launched already :-)

New tenants are created in Australia.  Existing tenants in Singapore will get migrated from September (or earlier via beta move program)

Comment by Mark, on 4-Jun-2015 10:40

For a few seconds I thought this might be an interesting article, but sadly not, it's just a big old fud advert and annoyed me with horrible inaccurate/dumb statements:-(

For starters "POP" and "IMAP" are not “Free email services", they are protocols that can be used to access “Free email services" like Gmail, Xtra Mail and others (including Office 365)

Next : Why on earth would fire, flood, theft, hacking, ransomware make any difference if you are on a "Free Email service" or a paid service like "Office 365" ?

Next : your Gmail criticisms center around one single very specific migration example, you even say that the migration worked for everyone else ... then you grumbled about getting support was difficult, was calling the 24/7  support line not an option ?  (or were you putting them on the free Gmail account ?  Business Gmail is paid and you do get support for your $$)

Next : your reasons for not using IMAP ... I stared at that paragraph trying to work out the logic, yes .. IMAP does not sync contacts or calendar entries ... that's because it is a protocol to handle EMAIL!!  (I seriously hope this is not the level of technical knowledge at Cyberhub!), your reasons is like me saying "I'm not using that bus because it doesn't make toast!!" 

The remaining bits of the article is about Office 365 and read quite well.  Maybe you should drop all the stuff before it and just say "Office 365 is great, use it" ... rather than try to spread fud (and failing badly with your technical knowledge).

Author's note by cyberhub, on 4-Jun-2015 11:06

Hi Mark,
You have made some very good points, I have updated the article accordingly.  Gmail for Business has support for paid customers which we were not aware of at the time and did not use.

And yes imap and pop no matter which provider you use does not sync contacts and calendar information, I think this is a legitimate reason not to use it when there are other options which do sync contacts and calendar.  Do you disagree, you are welcome to your opinion?

If you are using pop email and your laptop is destroyed in fire, flood, theft or hacking all the email data including your contacts and calendar which only exist on your laptop or PC if you are using pop or imap is gone.  If you have Office 365 email this is not an issue because you can immediately access your email, contact and calendar via webmail or get a new laptop and install Outlook as your data downloads to your laptop.

I have moved many customers to Gmail for Business and Office 365 (initially BPOS) and I never had an issue at all with Office 365 but I had migration issues with Gmail.  At the time I was not aware of Gmail for business support, I did not see this in any of their literature or emails.  Is this my fault?  Well maybe but if they don't advertise it readily I also think it is bit of their fault as well.  That being the case I am happy to agree with you that we should of known that.

In terms of technical knowledge, we attempted to upload the email data using Outlook which did not work and then we attempted to use the Google upload tool.  That did not work either.

Comment by nzsouthernman, on 4-Jun-2015 11:47

Personally, I'd recommend any cloud based mail service over ISP-hosted / self-hosted mail any day for the SMB and home market.  GMail is my preference, and even the free version sync's fine to any device you want it to.Once you forget about Outlook on the desktop and move to a totally browser only experience, you'll soon forget about the few features that Outlook gives that you can't get anywhere else and enjoy never having to worry about your mail again.Also, with Google being a search company and all, you never need to delete an email ever again - just let them pile up in your inbox if you want, or tidy them away with filters and labels. You can dig up that conversation you had three years ago and prove what you said with a moment's effort.That plus two-factor auth to your mobile/tablet/watch (yep, I've got it working on my Pebble) (and yes, 365 also supports two factor auth) and you'll never need to worry about your mailbox being compromised.  Lock your tablet & mobile with a passcode and even if it's stolen your mailbox is safe.My $0.02 worth.

Author's note by cyberhub, on 4-Jun-2015 11:58

Hi nzsouthernman,
Thanks for your comment, yeah I agree.  Gmail for Business or even free Gmail is a better service than ISP free pop or imap email.  The users email data remains hosted by Google and can be retrieved in a disaster situation, which is my main point.

Also, using second level authentication means there is really no chance of being hacked.

In regards to Outlook, yeah if people are happy with webmail and not using Outlook, Gmail for business would then become the first or second choice.

If the end user prefers Outlook, then Office 365 becomes the obvious first choice. 

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Dan Ballard
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