Beware spiralling costs as mobile e-mail use booms, users warned

Fifty per cent of UK businesses will be running wireless e-mail services within two to three years, and users will need to keep a...

Fifty per cent of UK businesses will be running wireless e-mail services within two to three years, and users will need to keep a close eye on costs, according to analyst firm Meta Group.

Devices such as the Blackberry and Treo are proving popular with corporate users, allowing easy access to e-mail from any location via the GPRS network. Meta has forecast that three-quarters of businesses will be using wireless e-mail within three to four years, making it the preferred means of e-mail communication. But few businesses have assessed the cost of deployment.

Meta analyst Jack Gold said, "Although many deployments, initially at least, are driven by executive desires, the viral nature of wireless e-mail means that the capability trickles down into the rank and file of the organisation fairly quickly, especially in organisations with loose or non-centralised control."

In a report on wireless e-mail, Gold advised users to have a strategy that emphasises the need to understand costs versus payback.

As service providers start offering converged services combining wireless e-mail with mobile phone calls, service charges will range from £35 to £45 per month, according to Meta. And this figure is unlikely to reduce significantly over the next three years.

Another cost users need to be wary of, said Meta, is licensing of the wireless middleware that resides next to the e-mail server (either Exchange or Notes) and is used to pass e-mail from the server to the mobile device. "Prices vary somewhat, based on supplier and capabilities of the platform," said Gold.

Meta said administration of wireless e-mail would add up to 10% to total IT administration costs. This is due to the requirement for administrators to be especially responsive when it comes to security - for example, shutting down missing devices, changing user profiles, applying patches.

Other costs users need to account for include repair and loss, support and documentation. In terms of repair and loss, Meta suggested users should budget for a 15% loss/breakage ratio per year, although this would depend on the type of deployment.

A support desk could expect, in the worst case, an average of six calls per year per user to resolve issues such as network problems, password changes, breakage, e-mail connectivity and filtering options. But Gold warned that novice users could substantially increase this number for a short period.

Gold recommended that end-users should be put on a short formal training session to impart not only basic functionality, but also best-use scenarios such as security, sign in, prevention of loss, appropriate expectations for coverage and support options.

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