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When will you start moving your mail and collaboration services into the cloud?

Increasing numbers of organisations are looking to cloud-based services as the next step for their mail and collaboration tools. Providers like Microsoft and Google offer their Office 365 and Google Apps services to tempt organisations away from Exchange, SharePoint and Notes servers and instead let their cloudy data centres take the strain.

Historically, organisations have shied away from such migrations due to insufficiently clear business cases, fears over security and regulatory compliance and a well-founded desire to avoid being on the leading edge.

Our view, informed by our experience helping clients prepare for and execute such migrations, is that such concerns are no longer very relevant, and moving mail and collaboration services into the cloud is more a matter of when and how, not why or if.

The business cases can be compelling, although perhaps not in the way you might expect. While the annual cost per-user for Office 365 or Google Apps is broadly similar to in-house cost (where such measurements are available), avoiding the costs associated with support, maintenance and the periodic 3-5 year platform migration can lead to the cost of change paying back quickly. We helped one multinational company generate a well-grounded business case that showed the benefits associated with moving their 70,000 employees to the cloud led to a positive return on investment within one year. And with Microsoft and Google fighting for dominance and offering discounts to achieve their goals, right now could be a very cost-effective time to migrate.

Security and regulatory concerns can be addressed on several fronts. For sensitive data, a mixed model of on- and off-premise servers can work well. For regulatory requirements, new value-add providers are launching services to address specific compliance needs – for example packaging Office 365 with bespoke SLAs and guaranteed UK and EU data residency.

As for the migration processes themselves, the early adopters have now laid down the start of best practice, and our experience is such projects are successful if they adhere to some simple principles:

  • Engage your sourcing team early - cloud contracts heavily protect vendor interests and rarely work for both parties in big Enterprise deals

  • Involve your Legal and Security stakeholders - brought in early, these experts can be essential to break through long-held myths and accurately assess the impact of constraints

  • Identify your non-commodity service requirements – by understanding where your current service deviates from pure commodity you can plan how you will deal with this now and in the future as the service providers roll out additional functionality

  • Understand the current TCO of in-house operations – focus in particular on hardware, operational management and secondary costs. Factor in upcoming investments

  • Make a realistic assessment of current market offerings - consider how the constraints imposed by products currently on the market compare with your needs. As a result you may find that for your organisations, it is not the right time to migrate collaborations services. However, you should keep a watching eye on developments, given the rapid pace of innovation in this area.

For expert advice on how to take your organisation’s mail and collaboration into the cloud, please contact us now

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