- The Washington Times - Monday, October 12, 2009

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, contends that 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 per user. That undercuts Google Apps’ yearly cost of $50 per user.

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, although 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 gigabyte of storage a year; more storage can be purchased in blocks of 100 GBs each, Mr. Pryor said. IBM is offering a 30-day trial for companies including 25 mailboxes and service in 10 languages.

Clearly, this product is intended for business; clearly, too, 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 GBs 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 when I need to find something I can do it 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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