workmail_logoInteresting news out of Amazon Web Services (AWS) this week with the announcement of WorkMail, Amazon’s cloud email service for businesses.

On-premises email has many players competing but the cloud is mostly a two horse race between Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps for Business. A big player like AWS entering the race is something to pay attention to.

Looking at the details of the announcement is seems that AWS is ticking most of the important boxes:

  • Location control – choose the AWS region where you want your WorkMail hosted. Currently this is limited to the US East and Ireland regions, but you could expect this to expand quickly. The physical location of cloud services is a big concern for a lot of businesses, and providers are taking it seriously as we’ve seen recently with Microsoft opening more and more regional datacenters such as the Australian Azure and Office 365 locations.
  • Encryption – S/MIME support, TLS for encryption in transit, and encryption at rest using the AWS Key Management Service or bring your own key. In comparison, Office 365 also covers these requirements.
  • Antivirus/Antispam – you would not be able to run a cloud-hosted email service without this, but it remains to be seen how effective and adaptable Amazon’s protection is.
  • Mobile Device Management – the basic policy items such as password strength, device encryption are there, as well as remote wipe. But the MDM landscape is moving on quickly in the BYOD world, with Microsoft baking in many more advanced MDM features directly into Office 365.
  • Directory Integration – AWS can host a cloud-only WorkMail for you or integrate with an existing Active Directory.
  • Client Support – WorkMail supports Outlook and a variety of modern web browsers and mobile devices.

A migration tool is also being made available. Migrating existing mailbox contents is a major hurdle to onboarding with any email platform, so this is an area that Amazon will need to get right if they want to win existing customers from other services.

The pricing is competitive at $4 per user per month that includes 50Gb of mailbox storage or $6 per user per month that also includes 200Gb of WorkDocs storage.

Without having fully explored the WorkMail service my initial opinion is that Office 365 offers better value and a better user experience to many businesses and enterprises due to the inclusion of the Office applications suite and a lot more features built in to the service itself (such as Lync Online, larger storage allowances in OneDrive, collaboration features such as Groups).

However, I would not dismiss WorkMail at this early stage. Aside from the fact that it comes from a powerful player like Amazon Web Services it’s important to realise that WorkMail is not just an email service that stands on its own. Instead, it integrates with a wide range of other established AWS services such as WorkDocs, IAM, KMS, Directory Service, and SES.

I could certainly foresee new startups who are not Microsoft-centric, and who are already moving into the AWS ecosystem for their compute and storage needs, strongly considering going “all in” and using WorkMail as well, instead of Office 365 or Google Apps. However, with the pace of innovation that is occurring in Office 365 Amazon will need to move fast to stay in the race.

About the Author

Paul Cunningham

Paul is a former Microsoft MVP for Office Apps and Services. He works as a consultant, writer, and trainer specializing in Office 365 and Exchange Server. Paul no longer writes for

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