Amazon WorkMail Challenges Google Gmail, Microsoft Outlook 365

Amazon WorkMail Challenges Google Gmail, Microsoft Outlook 365
Like Google, Amazon Is Combating On-Site Email Servers
WorkMail Relies Heavily on Amazon Web Services
'Enterprise-Grade Security' Is a Major Selling Point
WorkMail Is Outlook-Friendly Across Operating Systems
WorkMail Uses Exchange ActiveSync for Synchronization
Look for Full Active Directory Integration
The Kinks Haven't Yet Been Worked Out
MDM Component Keeps Mobile Devices Secure
Amazon Has Its Eye on Outlook Users
The Price Is Right
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Amazon WorkMail Challenges Google Gmail, Microsoft Outlook 365

By Don Reisinger

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Like Google, Amazon Is Combating On-Site Email Servers

The days of having on-premises email servers will go away if Amazon has anything to do with it. The company specifically took aim at email servers in its WorkMail announcement, saying that its cloud-based platform will allow companies to save on hardware and not need to worry about maintaining another server. It's the same sales pitch Google has made with Google Apps for Work and Microsoft is making with Office 365.

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WorkMail Relies Heavily on Amazon Web Services

So, what is the backbone of Amazon's WorkMail? It's all about Amazon Web Services (AWS). The company's cloud platform, which includes everything from online storage to handling Web-based applications, is the platform on which WorkMail is built. Without Amazon Web Services, there would be no WorkMail.

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'Enterprise-Grade Security' Is a Major Selling Point

Amazon made it a point to note that WorkMail comes with "enterprise-grade security." The company didn't provide too much detail on the encryption level, other than to say that its service uses Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). In addition, companies are allowed to control encryption keys through the Amazon Web Services Key Management Platform. IT decision-makers can also decide on the location of email data on AWS.

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WorkMail Is Outlook-Friendly Across Operating Systems

Amazon acknowledges the importance of Outlook in the enterprise, saying that its WorkMail will work across Outlook installations on Windows and OS X. More importantly, WorkMail doesn't require any additional plug-ins to work and has support for conversation view and out-of-office replies on the desktop level.

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WorkMail Uses Exchange ActiveSync for Synchronization

To its credit, Amazon has seen the value in supporting Microsoft's Exchange ActiveSync standard. By doing so, Amazon is easing the transition to WorkMail. Companies currently using an Exchange server, for instance, will not need to make any changes to configuration because of the ActiveSync integration. In fact, companies could make the change over from an Exchange server to WorkMail, and end users wouldn't even know the difference.

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Look for Full Active Directory Integration

WorkMail comes with full support for Microsoft Active Directory. So, users will be able access their WorkMail email with their current Active Directory credentials. For the IT side, the feature means that companies can modify Active Directory Users and Computers and instantly have that change replicated to WorkMail. It's a feature not commonly found in third-party services and something IT staffs should keep in mind.

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The Kinks Haven't Yet Been Worked Out

Despite all of the compelling features baked into WorkMail, it's worth noting that Amazon has stuck a "Preview" tag on the service, meaning it still needs to have kinks worked out. Since IT has historically been loath to deploy solutions that are still in beta, don't expect a rapid ramp-up of WorkMail users. Still, it's possible that some IT folks will try out the service to see if it makes sense to switch.

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MDM Component Keeps Mobile Devices Secure

Mobile device management, the process of IT being able to control how data flows through employees' mobile devices and how all of that is secured, plays a crucial role in WorkMail. According to Amazon, IT can enforce mobile security policies in WorkMail via Exchange ActiveSync. The feature allows IT to force employees to lock phones, ensure password strength and remotely wipe devices. Nice.

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Amazon Has Its Eye on Outlook Users

If the features in WorkMail say anything, it's that Amazon is taking the fight to Microsoft and Outlook with its new service. From a Web client for users to access their email to support for a quick changeover from an Exchange server, WorkMail appears to be aimed at getting companies using Outlook and Exchange servers to host their email to look elsewhere.

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The Price Is Right

Amazon has priced WorkMail perfectly. After a 30-day free trial for up to 25 users, customers will pay $4 per user per month. That includes up to 50GB of data storage per user. Companies that also want to use Amazon's productivity suite, called WorkDocs, will pay $6 per month. In comparison, Office 365 business plans start at $5 per month. The same is true for Google Apps for Work.

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