CRM, Email marketing, Hosted, On-premise, Symphonie

Cloud-based Infrastructure and Your Email Marketing Solution

Azure and AWS
Traditionally, companies ran their own data centers, or they paid other vendors to manage racks of servers in a colocation facility that served as their computer infrastructure. A recent trend in business is the shift away from on-premise servers and infrastructures to off-site, cloud-based systems that handle all or most of a company’s computer infrastructure needs. These services can be purchased from vendors who take care of all aspects of hardware purchasing and provisioning, load balancing, firewall protection, and more.

They go by acronyms such as “PaaS” (Platform as a Service) and “IaaS” (Infrastructure as a Service), and offer small businesses a way to scale up a business without the usual IT and hardware overhead. Amazon Web Service (AWS) and Microsoft’s Azure are two of the largest players in the cloud space. Email marketing software that is designed to work with external databases, such as Goolara Symphonie, can run on these platforms, but an Email Service Provider (ESP) that keep its data separate from other input data is going to encounter problems. The PaaS/IaaS providers companies don’t want email marketing mail sent from their networks. This is understandable. To do so would provide too many opportunities for unscrupulous spammers to hide their tracks and potentially block their ability to send any emails. That doesn’t mean you can’t use Azure or AWS with your email marketing software, but you need to understand how it works, and then decide which solution is best for you.

On-Premise Meets the Cloud

Traditionally, if a company wanted to keep its data safe, it meant keeping everything in-house. This meant servers, RAIDs, and constantly monitoring for load balancing, software updates, and redundancy issues. It’s a lot to take care of, so it came as no surprise that, when afforded the opportunity, some businesses preferred to hand off these duties to third-party services. This approach really took off when Amazon introduced their Amazon Web Service (AWS). Suddenly, it was possible to forgo the high cost of a computer infrastructure and concentrate on the business’s core products and services. Enough companies joined the shift to AWS that, soon, a new acronym was born: “IaaS” (Infrastructure as a Service).

With the success of Amazon Web Services, other companies, such as Google, IBM, HP, and Rackspace soon entered the market, but the first real competition to AWS came from Microsoft with its Azure service. As of this writing, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure are neck-and-neck as the two top providers of cloud-based Infrastructures and Platforms by a wide margin. With its Microsoft pedigree, Azure has gained ground on Amazon, especially with companies that already use Microsoft products.

Email Marketing and Cloud-Computing

So can AWS and Azure integrate with email marketing software? Well, maybe. It will depend on your email marketing solution. Goolara Symphonie can do it because it allows you to use subscriber data from your own database. Many companies—especially those that offer “free” services—send their email marketing from within their own system, and this can be a problem when you try and shift your infrastructure to the cloud. Azure won’t let you send mass emails directly from within it, and AWS wants to funnel everything through its SES (Simple Email System). So what are these companies to do with their email marketing when they migrate their computer infrastructure to the cloud? Suddenly, you are playing on someone else’s field, and you’ll have to play by their rules.

ESP and IaaS

If you are already using an ESP that doesn’t offer data integration, this might not matter to you, but if you use any type of CRM integration, you’ll find things get more complicated when you move your infrastructure to the cloud. This isn’t a problem if your ESP (such as Goolara) is designed for data integration, but it could result in problems with those ESPs that like to keep all the subscriber data local to their own records.

On-Premise and Cloud Computing

So what about using an on-premise email marketing solution with Azure or AWS? On first glance, this may sound like a contradiction in terms, but we’re starting to see IaaS/PaaS used with on-premise systems as part of a hybrid solution. Properly configured, this approach combines the advantages of a cloud-based infrastructure, while maintaining the data security and integrity you’ve come to expect from an on-premise system. The email system can pull the data from the servers in the cloud and send the mailings outside of Azure. Setting up this hybrid infrastructure is quite easy, and gives the advantage of all data being hosted in the customer’s cloud, with the sending actions handled by the ESP’s infrastructure. The customer remains in control of the data, and can directly read or modify the data in their database, which are some of the key advantages of an on-premise deployment.

International Issues

One area that has not received much discussion is the thorny problem of national boundaries. With the advent of cloud-based infrastructures, the question of where your data resides might become critical. This won’t matter much if you are located in America, but recent European legislation could have an impact on your choice to move to a cloud-based platform. On the plus side, we doubt that even the people who drafted the legislation are aware of the potential issues of borders with a cloud-based system. Right now, there are no signs that any court cases are planning to deal with the question.

Moving your Infrastructure to the cloud is not a task to take on lightly. Whether you choose AWS, Azure, or some other Infrastructure/Platform as a Service, you’ll still need to set up your email marketing software to work with it. This means working closely with your ESP to ensure that everything is compatible. Already, we’re seeing companies spring up for the express purpose of helping other companies make their transition to the cloud. Every situation is bound to be slightly different. There is no simple plug-and-play solution that will work for everyone. If you are a Goolara Symphonie user, or you are interested in moving your company’s infrastructure to an IaaS, feel free to contact us to learn more about how you can integrate your cloud-based database directly with Symphonie for a great hybrid approach of cloud infrastructures.

Cloud, Email marketing, Legislation, On-premise, Trends

Privacy, ESPs, Protecting Your Data, and the Law

Who's watching your data?The NSA revelations of last year, the enactment of the Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL) in June, and recent European Commission meetings have brought issues of privacy and national data control to the forefront of the minds of IT professionals and technology users around the world. Although many countries, such as Egypt, UAE, and Malaysia, still have no data privacy laws, most industrialized nations are looking to beef up their data protection regulations as soon as possible. In some cases, this is the result of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA. Brazil didn’t worry much about its data protection policies until President Dilma Rousseff found out that the NSA was tapping her phone. Then the Brazilian Internet Law (Marco Civil da Internet) was quickly passed.

Another trend we’re seeing is the shift in data policies and country borders. In Russia, for instance, a new law was passed by the Duma requiring that the “systematization, accumulation, storage, updating and retrieval of personal data of citizens of the Russian Federation, [must be] held on databases located in the territory of the Russian Federation.” This law takes effect in 2016. Even countries, such as Germany, that already have stricter than average data privacy laws, continue to tighten their laws with new legislation.

International privacy laws

Where’s My Data?

Where once there was very little legislation governing things such as email lists and opt-in verification, countries and states are looking to get tough on data breaches and information mis-use, but this gets a lot harder to do when you don’t know where the data resides.

As anti-spam laws become more stringent, countries such as Canada require that businesses keep subscriber records secure, well-verified, and up-to-date. Recent trends indicate that, if anything, this trend toward great accountability is growing. New York Times Business Correspondent Danny Hakim recently observed that the words “cloud computing” did not appear in the European Commission’s general data protection regulation when it was introduced in 2012, but they do now. “The European Union wants to regulate the cloud even if that makes its use more complicated,” Mr. Hakim wrote. Not everyone in the European Commission supports these regulations, but it demonstrates the extent to which governments are willing to become involved if businesses don’t do a better job of securing their data.

For this reason, a stronger emphasis is being placed on the use of location specific data sources. After all, it’s hard to comply with the laws when you don’t know exactly where your files reside. Armed with this information, country and state authorities can better determine where the problems in the information chain occur, and companies can avoid potential problems by keeping control over the information, rather than turning it over to third parties.

Hopping Off the Cloud

One side effect of this is a decreased interest in cloud-based solutions. In Germany, for instance, cloud grew only three percent in 2013, compared with nine percent the previous year. Oracle, a company that relies heavily on cloud-based solutions, saw a dip in its orders between 2013 and 2014 everywhere except the Americas. In an NPR report, Cisco senior vice president of security Christopher Young acknowledged that this was an issue, especially outside the U.S. “[Y]ou can go to Latin America, you can go to Europe, to Asia, and there’s many examples of customers asking those questions.”

This is quite a change from two years ago, when all the chatter on Internet was about doing things “in the cloud.” Companies bent over backwards to promote their “cloud-based” solutions. Now, we are seeing a shift away from this everything-in-the-cloud approach to a more thoughtful approach. For the low security needs, people still use cloud solutions, but when data security and national laws enter the picture, on-premise (“on-prem”) platforms clearly have an edge.

Keeping the Borders Closed

As Symantec pointed out in a recent article on their site, “[a benefit of] an on-premises delivery model, particularly for organizations with regulatory requirements, would be the twin needs of identifying and securing an organization’s sensitive information. On-premise deployment of these technologies offers capabilities that meet the needs of finding sensitive information where it lives and allowing appropriate access to authorized users. …[On-premise email solutions] permit complete control over the custody of data. … This is a critical consideration in a variety of situations.”

Locked Countries

Hey You, Get Off of My Cloud

On the Journal of International Law and Politics New York Forum (JILP), an Australian author explaining why Australians should use Australian-based cloud system inadvertently explains exactly why people are opting for on-premise systems: “[W]hen you take advantage of locally (in an international sense) based service here in Australia, you’re getting an extra layer of protection. [These] solutions will be governed by Australian law (and not the laws of some other nation)….You’ll never be at the mercy of a foreign government or foreign agent or the changing winds of their security policies – and as an Australian citizen using Australian-based cloud solutions you’ll have a voice in the rules, regulations, and laws governing the security and protection (as well as the enforcement of) those policies moving forward.”

While the JILP author is correct that a cloud-based system within a country’s borders affords that extra layer of state protection, it doesn’t address the problem that comes with any cloud-based system, and that is, you never really know where it is. The service might say it is local, but it could be anywhere. If asked where you data is, the best you can do is wave your hand and say, “It’s out there somewhere.” On-premise has no such limitations. When asked where your data is, you can point directly at your servers and say, “It’s right there.” This kind of locality is hard to beat.

spies in the cloud

Compliance is Not Negotiable

The key here is compliance, legal compliance, that is, and in email marketing, compliance is non-negotiable. As Bill Claybrook points out on TechTarget: “Compliance is viewed as a big obstacle toward widespread cloud adoption, and rightly so. It is driven by law and legislation so there is no choice but to comply.” He also points out that “Some regulations stipulate where sensitive information can and cannot reside.” If that information must reside in the country of origin, then an on-premise email marketing system will settle the matter.

At Goolara we offer both solutions—hosted and on-premise—so we don’t have a dog in this fight. We see the advantages of each system for different purposes. For many companies, particularly those with minimal or shaky IT departments, a hosted solution is usually a better choice, but a company with a strong IT Department and tight security is better keeping things in-house. If you are not sure which solution is best for you, give us a call. We can assess your needs quickly and accurately and give you our recommendation based on your individual business factors.