Email Evolution

More and more organizations are moving their messaging platforms to the cloud.

Despite the rise of instant messaging, video conferencing and other online collaboration tools, email remains an essential form of communication among business users. According to the “2017 Workplace Productivity and Communications Technology Report” from Webtorials, employees spend 80 minutes per day reading and replying to emails, and ranked email as the most efficient form of communication.

Radicati Group, which conducts an annual study of email trends, predicts that the business email market will continue to grow steadily for the next several years. In its most recent report, the research firm estimates that revenues for business email solutions and services will top $23.8 billion in 2017, and grow to more than $46.8 billion by the end of 2021. That represents an average annual growth rate of 18 percent.

Cloud-based business email solutions are playing a key role in this growth. Smaller organizations are opting for cloud-based solutions because they lack the in-house IT resources to host and manage their email platform. Many midsize and large organizations are migrating their on-premises messaging platforms to the cloud in order to reduce costs and streamline their operations.

The rise of the mobile workforce and geographically dispersed teams is also helping to drive adoption of cloud-based email, which makes it easy to create a common messaging infrastructure regardless of location. In addition, cloud-based messaging makes it cost-effective to extend email to non-office employees, such as retail or factory workers.


Cheaper, Easier

Microsoft Exchange Server is the de facto standard for on-premises email and collaboration services. Introduced in 1996, it was originally called Exchange Server 4.0 because it was offered as an upgrade from Microsoft Mail 3.5. The platform has continued to evolve over the years to address changing business needs and technology requirements.

According to Radicati Group, on-premises Microsoft Exchange still accounts for 68 percent of Exchange mailboxes, with hosted and cloud-based alternatives accounting for just 32 percent. However, the research firm predicts that those numbers will switch by 2021, with on-premises Exchange accounting for just one-third of mailboxes and cloud services accounting for two-thirds.

It comes down to simple economics. Cloud-based Exchange enables organizations to leverage a service provider’s infrastructure, eliminating the need to purchase, install, configure and maintain Exchange Server and supporting hardware. Customers purchase email services and storage capacity on a subscription basis, typically a monthly fee per user.

A cloud-based solution can be deployed in a matter of hours, compared to an average of 30 days for an in-house implementation. Users accounts can be managed easily through a centralized console, even by nontechnical personnel. There’s no need to dedicate IT resources to the maintenance and administration of the email platform.

Organizations that have grown through mergers and acquisitions can consolidate their messaging platforms and simplify licensing through a cloud-based solution. And because the service provider is responsible for keeping the environment up-to-date, there are no painful migrations or upgrades as new versions become available.


Choosing the Right Option

Radicati Group defines two primary segments in the cloud-based business email market — Microsoft solutions and Google’s G Suite. Microsoft solutions are further broken down into hosted Exchange services and Office 365.

Hosted Exchange services are simply Microsoft Exchange Server deployments that are hosted and managed by a service provider. They offer a certain degree of customization and average 99.999 percent availability. With Office 365, customers always get the latest features and greater integration with other Microsoft products, but there is little to no opportunity for customization and only 99.9 percent guaranteed uptime.

Office 365 and G Suite offer similar functionality, each with its strengths and weaknesses. The choice between Office 365 and G Suite typically comes down to user familiarity with the productivity apps that are bundled into the platform.

Migrating messaging services to the cloud isn’t a simple undertaking, particularly for organizations with numerous mailboxes and large volumes of data. The migration process must be carefully planned to avoid business disruption and data loss that could impact data governance and regulatory compliance requirements.

Some organizations remain concerned about the security and privacy of cloud-based business email, but cloud services are often more secure than on-premises platforms. Considering that cloud-based solutions can also cut costs and simplify management, it’s easy to see why more and more organizations are getting out of the business of maintaining their own email and turning the process over to a service provider.