Interesting Stuff

Pressing Pause on Work

The French legislation that was signed off in May 2016 and is in effect as of Jan 1st 2017 will be something studied closely by most other countries in the next few years. Part of the law changes (which included other changes to allow employers to more easily dismiss staff) was to have companies define a time when their staff can effectively disconnect from work email.

Almost all companies have been trying to rapidly adopt a “mobile first” approach to their business, mostly to catch up with their customers who are now using mobiles more than any other device. The flow-on effect of this has been to then try the same with their own work force and for good reason. Give your staff the right information at the right time in order to better serve your customers and improve their experience.

But email, the bane of many people’s lives, was always the first and simplest product to get people to use. Away from your desk, in a meeting, on the train, and of course at home long after work hours finished. This has been a growing expectation at many companies that emails are almost like TXT messages; something that needs a prompt, if not immediate response. But email just isn’t that medium, and that expectation is misguided if a company respects and cares about their staff. Some of this is definitely a cultural shift, perhaps with younger employees moving away from email and not having that old mental connection of email to “snail mail” – something that takes time.

In the research done on the subject of stress levels vs email (a topic I’m sure you’re familiar with), it was found that the more you check your email, the higher your stress levels become. If you can’t disconnect and separate your work time from home/play time then your mental health will likely suffer, to the detriment of one or both.

I work a lot with mobile technology and trying to ensure people have the right tools for what they need to do, but I definitely see the advantage of changing expectations of working after hours. I hope the French law changes provide a measurable improvment in the health of those they affect and that more companies choose to do the same and combine them with similar work environment updates for the “modern age” (whatever that means these days). Work from home if you can, interact with those groups you need to for face-to-face time, but when you’re done for the day, press pause on the work side of your life.

Interesting Stuff Sys Admin

MS Exchange Local vs Hosted vs Google for 10,000 Users

After looking at some comments around Exchange Hosted Services, I thought I might do a quick (and very dirty) comparison between that and Google for 10,000 users. (This is no way reflects on the three options and may not resemble your reality).

MS Exchange Hosted Services would cost US$90k/month for company with 10k email users and selecting roughly half the options available (Communicator and Hosted Archive being two). That sounds really pricey vs local in-house servers and admins? I have no specific Exchange knowledge but say 20 servers across 5 virtual hosts, plus storage and backups is roughly NZ$350-400k as a one-off cost. Plus a team of seven admins to run it @ NZ$80k pa each is a five year cost of around $2.8 million, but lets say $3.2M to round it up to include a few software licenses and some power,cooling and floor space.

Google’s offering that I compared MS against is their Premier Edition of Apps. It’s US$50 per user per year and offers the usual email, calendar, resource booking, etc much like Exchange. I was expecting a few missing features but was surprised to see BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) synching and user and group provisioning APIs. It integrates with LDAP and offers Single Sign-On (SSO) so most of your users won’t see too much of a change – especially if they keep on using the Outlook client. The main issue for some businesses may be the 99.9% uptime guarantee – that’s 8h 45m down time per year. I’m sure there are a few features that Exchange holds over Apps but in many situations the cost may outweigh the benefit or it’s just not needed. Using Google Apps also unties you from MS Outlook and possibly MS Office, so this option may open the door to other savings.

So over 5 years for the 10k user company we have the following options:

In-house MS Exchange with 20 VMs, storage and 7 admins = NZ$3.2M

MS Exchange Hosted Services with a mid-tier option seclection @ US$90k/month = NZ$7.4M (at today’s exch rate of 0.72)

Google Apps Premier Edition @ US$50 per user per year = NZ$3.5M

Now one stands out there and not for a particularly good reason. The MS EHS option does include Communicator and Hosted Archiving as an option but I don’t see the extra value over staying with what you have or sending it all to Google. Add to both the off-site options, the project costs of actually implementing this and your own Exchange would have to be in a bad way or have some serious pain to go either way.

What are your thoughts on this one? Are my locally run Exchange costs way off for 10k users and are there any NZ based companies of a similar size (NZ Post’s 2100 users are on the way to Google Apps) that have taken either remote option? Is Google half the service or twice the value of the MS offering?

My last thought would be – just how reliable is that internet connection of yours?