2 July 2013 - by Thom Hooker

How to build a mail hosting platform

SMX recently re-launched our email hosting platform. It comes at a time when we're seeing big changes in the way IT services are delivered to customers, as well as how those services are distributed through the channel.

Cloud services are nothing new. IT services have been delivered under the managed, out-sourced and "as-a-Service" banners for a long time and we at SMX have used all of those terms over the years to describe what we do. Not a lot of people know this, but SMX started out as a pure email hosting company in 2004/5. When we launched the product we were ahead of our time customers weren't able (or prepared) to entirely out-source their email yet, given network speeds at the time, your average business owner's knowledge of IT, not to mention most people's experiences of "cloud-based" services back then was probably a poor experience courtesy of their consumer-focused ISP. Companies also had a problem with spam at that time and they wanted us to sort their security issues instead of host their email. This wasn't a problem for a technical company like SMX and we tweaked our software to be a very accurate email filtering (or "scrubbing" as we first called it) platform.

Fast forward to the year 2013 and I'm happy to report the market has finally caught up to where we were eight or nine years ago. Network speeds in the majority of western countries have improved massively in that time, and ISPs have moved away from charging ridiculous amounts for small monthly data caps. Coupled with the huge amount of publicity driven by IT vendors suddenly "discovering" cloud service delivery, we're in the middle of a revolution in how companies procure and fulfill their IT requirements.

Email has always been "in the cloud". Without the Internet there would've been no need for email (large enterprises already had intra-company memo systems) so email needed the Internet and it became the Internet's first killer app. As such email is one of those services that fits naturally into a cloud model. Email has certainly come a long way since Dave Crocker wrote the seminal RFC822 in 1982 that defined the format for email messages, and is now undoubtedly the most critical business communication tool in use today.

Customers are also a lot savvier than before and expect more from their email service provider. Using a consumer-grade service from your home ISP isn't going to cut it, and like most things in IT, you get what you pay for. If you're paying nothing for your email service you probably know about it. Customers are also trying to do a lot more with their email these days, too. For instance, integrated calendaring and file sharing are some of the services people expect to be able to integrate with their email service. A full-featured mobile interface is also mandatory these days and the new SMX hosted email platform includes a nice HTML5-based interface for true cross-platform compatibility.

In partnership with Openwave Messaging, SMX is proud to be able to deliver these enterprise services, fully integrated into a single hosted solution. SMX has a reputation for delivering reliable, secure services for many years and we are now looking to deliver the same reliability and security to our email hosting customers. SMX's expertise and experience in the cloud sector means customers can rely on us to protect and deliver their email with 100% availability guarantees.

As a technologist, selecting the right solution for each technical problem has always been key to delivering stable and resilient services. I've been a fan of Openwave Messaging's software since I first encountered it in the mid-90s and I've been working with their platform on and off since then. Formerly known as Intermail and now sold under the catchy name "Universal Messaging SuiteTM Email Mx", the fact that companies like AT&T and Time Warner Cable in the US and Softbank in Japan use the same technology and architecture as us is a huge endorsement of the quality of the platform. For SMX it was a no-brainer when we were selecting a technology partner to provide our mail hosting platform.

One of the key components of the new Openwave platform that helps deliver this exceptional reliability is the integration of the Cassandra Distributed Database. Cassandra is a massively scalable distributed database system, designed to have no single point of failure and to run on commodity hardware. Cassandra allows us to store multiple copies of each email in the cluster and distribute this data across multiple data-centers as well, meaning you can still retrieve your email even if one of our data-centers is completely OTA.

Along with the resilient nature of the technology platform, we're also in your backyard. SMX has always taken the view that customers would prefer to deal with someone local than some faceless multinational, hence why we physically deploy our services in every market we enter.

The re-launch of the SMX email hosting platform has been eight years in the making and SMX is proud to offer a solution that out-competes the big international providers. As the market evolves we're committed to updating and improving our solution to keep pace with changing requirements and our philosophy of using best-of-breed solutions means our customers and partners receive world-leading cloud email services, delivered from a trusted local source.