Companies of all industries and sizes are considering, planning for, and implementing cloud-based solutions in their infrastructure. One of the first questions that comes up is: “Where do we start?” Email is one — if not the first — significant resource that is cited. Why? It’s a relatively discrete piece of infrastructure where many companies can realize typical cloud benefits like upfront infrastructure cost avoidance, an easier route to being on the latest platform, and the opportunity to offload responsibility to a domain specialist. And then there’s ongoing operational costs: Infrastructure and operations pros, along with their business peers, look at what it costs to run email themselves and compare that with the cost of the provider and struggle to see how they can match provider economics.

Another question that often comes up is: “How real is this trend?” When was the last time you saw vendors like Microsoft, IBM, Google, AT&T, Verizon, Cisco, and Oracle sink billions into the same market? Organizations large and small, like GlaxoSmithKline, Manpower, Panasonic, the US General Services Administration, and a host of others, have made moves to the cloud. That’s a lot of major players and customers, and that’s a good indicator that this isn’t a fad.

For the past several years, my colleague Ted Schadler and I have written about what this trend means to Infrastructure & Operations pros along with their Content & Collaboration-focused peers who are charged with defining an enterprise collaboration strategy. Some of these reports include an I&O pro’s view, a look at the four core platforms, a comparative cost analysis (including segmentation opportunities), a look at hybrid infrastructures, and a large company case study with GlaxoSmithKline.

We’ve just published two new reports: The first is a look at some of the emerging best practices in the evaluation and migration to cloud-based email platforms, titled “Learn From Those Who Have Made The Leap To Cloud-Based Email.” We interviewed the core platform vendors, customers who’ve made migrations, and implementation partners who’ve helped, to see what they’ve learned from the earlier stages of evaluation and migration stages. Mapping out integration requirements, accounting for security and regulatory factors, and discovering what your employees actually need (as opposed to what you think they need) are a few of the necessary steps to take when evaluating the feasibility of the cloud for email. A few of the necessary steps to take during migration, as suggested by our interviewees, relate to directory consolidation, comprehensive training, and migration approach.

Second, we’ve published a Market Overview on cloud-based email vendors, looking beyond the platform vendors themselves like Google, IBM, and Microsoft, and including  third-party hosters and telecoms. The goal of the research is twofold: 1) isolate some of the critical selection criteria I&O pros should factor into their evaluations, and 2) start to segment the market to see where the players fall and where customers should look for help. For more on this, check out the reports.

Please let us know what you think of the research; we’d love to have your feedback. Have you performed an evaluation? Made a migration?