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Email is conceptually simple, but its implementation in many large organizations is anything but. Email systems serve as the communication backbone for most organizations, but also as their primary file-transport system, their primary source of archivable content, and an enormous source of content about how their business operates (something that a Big Data approach to email will use increasingly to provide decision makers with valuable content for intelligence about their companies.) It’s also important to the note that while many think of email as a primarily person-to-person communications tool, quite often the primary senders of email are applications, not people. Take a look at the most recent 100 emails in your inbox, for example, and you’ll probably find that a large percentage of them, if not the majority, were sent to you by an Email-Generating Application (EGA).

The implications of all of this for the cloud are significant in several ways:

  • A growing proportion of email traffic in the future will be generated by applications, not people.
  • Many EGAs are legacy applications and/or provided by a third party, and so migrating them to the cloud may be expensive or not even possible in some cases.
  • Our research has found that heavily regulated organizations, such as financial services companies, have a higher proportion of EGAs than less heavily regulated firms, adding to the difficulty of migrating to a cloud model for many of them.
  • Some EGAs are difficult to configure for cloud-based environments and cannot be easily integrated with them.
  • Many EGAs generate and transmit highly sensitive information, such as billing records or protected health information, further complicating the decision process of migrating to the cloud for many.
  • Not all EGAs are extremely well-behaved, and so migrating to the cloud adds a layer of difficulty and inefficiency in some cases that can be daunting.

What this all means is that many organizations, particularly larger ones that operate tens or even hundreds of EGAs, will not find it practical to migrate completely to a cloud-based messaging capability. The result is that these organizations either will not migrate to the cloud, and thereby forego the efficiencies that they might derive from it, or most of them will need to deploy a hybrid approach. While some capabilities like security, mailboxes, archiving, encryption, etc., can migrate to the cloud for some users or applications, others will have to remain on-premises in order to satisfy cost, regulatory, security or other requirements. Osterman Research believes that majority will use this hybrid approach to gain the advantages inherent in each deployment model.

As a result, organizations that operate these hybrid architectures should have an integrated set of capabilities to manage key functions, such as archiving, security and the like. What organizations won’t find optimal is a set of archiving, security and other capabilities for their on-premises system, and a completely separate set of tools for capabilities in the cloud. Forced into choosing two separate sets of capabilities will inhibit migration to the cloud because it drives up cost and reduces efficiency for organizations, negating two of the cloud’s most important benefits.

Sendmail, which has long been pushing the hybrid approach through its provision of an email backbone capability that integrates nicely with cloud-based environments, recently teamed with Mimecast to provide various capabilities for hybrid environments. Both companies use a platform approach to providing their respective services. The integration of their offerings permits companies deploying a hybrid messaging capability to choose the appropriate archiving, security or other services for both the on-premises and cloud-based parts of their infrastructure without having to choose from one set of vendors for one and a different set of vendors for the other. Here is more information on the announcement.

This partnership, and others like it that we anticipate will be announced in the future, will help larger organizations—and even many smaller ones—to realize the flexibility and efficiency of using on-premises and cloud capabilities in a hybrid environment and will help to drive faster migration to the cloud.

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