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August 14, 2012


Hosted Cloud, Real-Time Content Breathe Life into E-mail

By Marie Lingblom

There’s been plenty of speculation on the death of e-mail. There are plenty of people and business still using it, and there are plenty of technologists out there working to modernize it and integrate it with collaborative and social solutions.

Dialog Interactive recently observed that while it may lack the buzz of other digital channels, e-mail is still the mainstay marketing tactic of choice, for instance. Considering the now varied alternative forms of communication, the blogger—and plenty of others—say the new e-mail opportunity lies in rethinking the shape, content and form of e-mail to date. That has already started with the transformation of static e-mail content into real-time, web-like pushes.

There’s also what’s called “responsive” e-mail designs that automatically reformat and resizes themselves to optimize for whatever screen size is being used on the other end. Customization has changed text size, color, background images and background colors.

A recent Forrester Report, meanwhile, singles out innovation from LinkedIn, Living Social, Netflix, and Posterous for running trials of in-message windows to their web environments as way to web search and complete transactions, including dinner reservations or car rental, without leaving the body of the e-mail. There’s also social calendaring and interactions with professional networks such as LinkedIn or a GoogleMaps widget that turns text in an e-mail into a live map.

The Radicati Group, in a market study covering 2012-2016, predicts rapid growth for consumer and cloud-based e-mail and collaborative solutions. Interestingly this work to revitalize and modernize e-mail as a hosted solution is appealing to larger companies. That’s a big shift from just one year ago when small, home office and small companies were the main buyers of hosted business e-mail and collaboration solutions.

Midmarket and larger enterprises are specifically pursuing enhanced services that include security, encryption, archiving, instant messaging, wireless e-mail management, and productivity suites.

Radicati sorts the enterprise hosted e-mail and collaboration market into a couple of groups: hosted business e-mail and collaboration and managed business e-mail. Hosted is multi-tenant and dedicated cloud solutions geared to business use. IBM, Google and Rackspace are named among the leading providers. Managed email is defined consulting and system integration organizations that manage e-mail and other services on an outsourced basis; IBM Global Services and Accenture are singled out among the leaders in this space.

Radicati finds the evolution of the hosted e-mail and collaboration market happening at a rapid pace. They point to migration found particularly toward enterprise-grade messaging and collaboration solutions. Tools in most demand include productivity tools, cloud storage, and mobility. Consumers are without question leveraging other communication modes such as social media, text messaging and IP messaging. Still, e-mail use continues to evolve and grow.

That could be in part because the evolution of e-mail is clearly affected by, and affecting, the growth of the cloud, said Jacques Pavleny of IBM Collaboration Solutions, in a recent blog. Cloud-based e-mail services have enjoyed rapid growth over the past year. But whether enterprises are looking at on premises or cloud-based e-mail, integration is still top of mind, he says.

Radicati and other market watchers know cost containment is a major driver behind the migration to the cloud. Other motivations, such as easier anywhere access and backup are also being cited by organizations looking to implement cloud-based solutions.

Pavlenyi also notes a recent survey of enterprises considering cloud-based e-mail that reveals most respondents expect e-mail will not disappear. Instead, he said it will remain a primary collaboration tool, or integrate with other collaboration capabilities like instant messaging and social software.

One of the keys to e-mail’s future, he said, is integrating it with other, more social capabilities. But it’s going to take some time to change people’s and enterprises’ perceptions and behavior.

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