Majority of Enterprises to Use Cloud-Based E-Mail by 2020, Report Says

By Nathan Eddy

As companies like Google, Microsoft and IBM enter into the cloud e-mail and collaboration services (CECS) markets as part of an effort to deliver the next generation of workplace solutions, e-mail is likely to undergo major changes, according to a report from IT research firm Gartner. The firm estimated that CECS is just a small piece of the overall e-mail and collaboration market at approximately 2 percent of the broader enterprise market, yet it is poised to go mainstream in the next five to 10 years.

In a recent report titled "The Cloud E-Mail and Collaboration Services Market," Gartner indicated that by 2012, cloud e-mail collaboration services will see 10 percent penetration. In addition, by 2020, CECS market growth will level off as it nears 65 percent penetration. The report found higher education, discrete manufacturing and retail appear to be significantly more likely to adopt cloud-based collaboration services today, while intelligence, defense, the heavily-regulated portions of financial services and health care providers are among those least likely to be early adopters. Gartner report reasons for differences by industry related to cost, regulatory and security sensitivity.

Gartner terms the collection of a broad range of e-mail and collaboration capabilities the CECS market segment. Conceptually, this could include e-mail, calendaring and scheduling, instant messaging, presence, audio and video chat, Web conferencing, simultaneous real-time content collaboration, micro-blogging, publish-and-subscribe communication tools, virtual workspaces, wikis, discussion forums and the underlying content clustering, context, security, administration, management, federation, and integration services.

Many reasons were offered and many benefits observed in discussions with Gartner clients, including lower net cost. This may be particularly true for enterprises with several thousand or fewer users, but the report noted many other factors need to be considered. Other frequently cited adoption justifications were greater reliability, particularly for smaller organizations; greater security, again, particularly for smaller organizations; the ability to stay up to date effortlessly (sometimes referred to as "getting off the upgrade treadmill"); smoothing cash flow requirements; and moving from upfront capital expenditures to ongoing, pay-as-you-go operating expenses.

The report also indicated it may cost less to migrate to CECS than to upgrade an existing older, on-premises system, particularly if existing network and server topologies need to be redone. The upgrade could also free some IT personnel from having to support all the enterprise's users—some may be able to be completely serviced by the CECS provider. Current implementations do not eliminate user administration and management costs, but they appear to cut them in half, Gartner noted.

This article was originally published on 2010-09-02