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By Michael Vizard

Following the official release of Microsoft Office 365, email systems are moving into the cloud on a daily basis. In fact, Microsoft has already reported that Office 365 is on a run rate that should generate sales of $1 billion a year.

While a lot of solution providers are lamenting the loss of on-premise sales that Microsoft represents, there are other opportunities created by the movement of email into the cloud. For example, because of compliance issues, the next thing many organizations are confronted with after moving email into the cloud is how to archive it.

With that in mind, Proofpoint has expanded its Proofpoint Advantage Partner Program and Proofpoint Referral Partner Program for its archiving applications that are delivered as a service. The programs will now include resellers of archiving applications, solution providers that resell Microsoft Office 365 and providers of e-discovery solutions.

The expansion of the Proofpoint channel program comes on the heels of the recent acquisition of Mail Distiller Limited, a European-based provider of software as a service (SaaS) email security and compliance applications.

According to Tom Barsi, executive vice president of business development for Proofpoint, SaaS applications that target archiving wind up being a lot more profitable for solution providers over a three-year period of time than on-premise deployments.

Beyond adjusting business models, however, solution providers that sell archiving solutions are often confronted with additional challenges. Many customers don’t understand the difference between backing up files and archiving them.

“It really depends on the segment,” says Barsi. “The lower to middle part of the market will tend to rely on backup.”

Barsi says that in addition to archiving, customers will be looking to move a raft of governance, security and e-discovery applications into the cloud. That shift creates new opportunities for solution providers that are certified to resell those applications.

It also may mean that from a profitability perspective, the cloud may wind up being the best thing to happen to the channel in a very long time.