Outsource Your Email – But Keep Your Boss Happy

LogicMonitor Opinion post

Running an email service is no joke, it’s something I’m intimately familiar with; in a former life I managed enterprise email services. So I’m painfully aware that end-users expect that the “Send” button works just like a dial tone: 24x7x365 with not a moment of downtime. And when your executives are expecting a email from an important business partner, they expect it to arrive in their inbox moments after it’s been sent.

Fortunately email and collaboration services have been commoditized for some time now, so there are lots of options for not having to tame that beast yourself. In addition to the big players, such as Google Apps for Business and Microsoft Office 365 Exchange Online, other entrants such as Rackspace and Amazon have entered the email outsourcing market. So unless your business falls into one of the increasingly narrow use-cases where outsourcing isn’t suitable, you’ve probably already taken advantage of the cost-savings and headache-reduction you get with a SaaS-based collaboration suite.

The only problem is, how do you know that the service you’ve been sold is working as advertised? And when it doesn’t, what does your support team tell your end-users (or your boss)? With on-premises mail services, it’s straightforward to monitor each of the individual components and learn when things are amiss. But once you’re running in the cloud it’s a black box, which makes it difficult to really know if everything is actually working (at least until your support hotline starts ringing). Or maybe there is an outage, and your end-users are too busy with Reddit to have noticed.

Certainly the major providers offer some type of “service health dashboard” that will tell you whether they think they’re seeing an outage. But there’s been some debate as to whether collaboration vendors’ reported uptime jives with reality. You might think you could rely instead on public services like www.isitdownrightnow.com or www.downdetector.com, but their measurements are made from their offices or datacenters – not yours. And they don’t provide any detail around what isn’t working: is it just the website? Or is their SMTP service degraded such that you can’t send outgoing messages? Or maybe their message store is down? Or maybe their public SMTP service is down, so they’re not receiving messages from external services. It’s hard to know.

Well, it’s only hard if you don’t use LogicMonitor. With our email monitoring capabilities, we offer multiple ways to ensure your SaaS collaboration vendor (or your own email service) is performing as expected. Our internal round-trip monitoring tests your email service performance from the perspective of your office; the delivery of a message from your network to their service, the handoff of the message into their message store, and the retrieval of the message back to your network. Here’s an example:

Email Blog #1
LogicMonitor’s Email Round-Trip monitoring lets you quickly visualize problems in either message submission services, delivery services, or issues between your offices and their datacenters that impact performance. And say you want your support desk to know when your hosted service takes more than 20 seconds to accept a message for delivery? With LogicMonitor, that’s just a few mouse clicks.

In addition to this internal view, LogicMonitor can also give you the “external” view (e.g. how well your email service is playing with others), because your business isn’t just sending email internally. A real-world example I had the misfortune of experiencing was when my SaaS email provider’s message hygiene platform began dropping messages from a major public service provider. If this sort of thing happens to you, someone in your office is most certainly going to come knocking at your door.

LogicMonitor’s email transit time monitoring helps you visualize these types of problems by measuring the time that a message spends in transit between “Service A” and “Service B,” which lets you understand actual delivery times and alert you when it’s taking longer than expected.

Email Blog #2
In the above example, we’re measuring the message transit time from Office365 to Gmail, and again from Gmail to Office365. The sub-minute transit times shown here are, of course, within spec. But you might want to know when the transit time exceeds, say, ten minutes (since that’s the timeline at which your boss would come a-knocking). Getting a proactive alert delivered via SMS is a piece of cake.

And since LogicMonitor lets you view the performance across all your infrastructure (both on-premises and in the cloud), you can keep tabs on all of your IT services; whether you’re running those yourself or you’ve outsourced them to the pros.

For complete details on setting up comprehensive email monitoring with LogicMonitor, see our documentation.

Matthew Dunham

Matthew Dunham is an employee at LogicMonitor.

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