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February 4, 2015updated 23 Aug 2016 8:59am

Amazon WorkMail: Good enough to beat Outlook & Gmail?

Can Amazon's WorkMail compete with likes of Microsoft and Google? CBR looks at the cloud-based service to see if success is on the cards.

By James Nunns

Amazon has stepped into the office productivity market with its Amazon Workmail, a cloud based email and calendaring service, which will work on Microsoft Outlook or other mail clients as a front end to the service.

So what do you need to know about Amazon WorkMail?

What does it do?

Of course, the first thing you need to know is, what does it do? Simply put it is an email service, similar to any other. You can send/receive emails, manage contacts and share calendars. Offering Anywhere Access through the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync protocol you can access your work emails wherever you need to. Clearly Amazon has placed an importance on compatibility and so the service is available on iOS, Android, Amazon Fire, and Windows Phone devices.

What security does it offer?

One of the benefits of WorkMail is that it automatically encrypts all of your data with encryption keys that you can control, using AWS Key Management Service. Another handy service is that you can control the locality of your data by choosing the AWS region where your data is stored. This could clearly be beneficial looking forward given the current climate of data storage locations in Europe.

Mobile device management is part of WorkMail and it could be a key selling point, the system allows IT to be able to control the data flow through employees’ mobile devices. Amazon state that this feature can allow IT to force employees to lock phones, improve and ensure password strength and also remotely wipe devices. However, this may cause privacy issues, for the security conscious business this may be a great benefit.

Can you trust it?

Amazon will likely retain full access to your messages and use them to analyse data for e-commerce marketing and they may also give the data to law enforcement agencies.

The WorkMail service will use the AWS privacy policy, which gives Amazon quite broad controls over your data. Considering that companies put a lot of private and sensitive data in emails, this may be a stumbling block to WorkMail adoption. Of course, Google and Microsoft have security and privacy concerns, but as the big names in email service they have built a higher level of trust with customers.

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Is it better than Google or Microsoft?

Maybe not- at least not yet. WorkMail has been labelled as a preview, so it is likely that Amazon are putting the service out to businesses in the hope of getting feedback so that when a full version is released it can offer everything that business need. Also, if WorkMail is greeted with a flood of negativity then Amazon has an escape clause and can just say it was a preview.

Will it succeed?

WorkMail is in its infancy and it is going up against Microsoft and Google who, with their services, offer integrated access to apps and services. With Amazon you are going to be juggling two services – perhaps if in the future Amazon were to develop a bespoke front to the user service that integrated Amazon services then it may become a true competitor.

What is likely to help WorkMail succeed is the strength of Amazon Web Services, which is the backbone of WorkMail. The company’s strength in that market not only came from being one of the first, but also from being cheap and innovative. With monthly per-user pricing and cost of $4 per month which gives you 50GB of storage per user, the price is good but the innovation to do something the competitors aren’t is yet to be revealed on a big enough scale to warrant people switching from Microsoft or Google.


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